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Five-way race for park board seat

Five candidates, but no primary ballot.

A statutory eccentricity will propel all of the hopefuls for an open park board seat straight to the general ballot in November, county elections officials say.

Then, Auditor Karen Flynn said, it’s a question of plurality:

“The candidate who receives the most votes wins.”

Last-minute filings Friday swelled the ranks of candidates to succeed Dane Spencer, who is not seeking re-election to the board’s Position 1 seat.

Sarah “Sally” Matthews and John Grinter joined Thomas P. Kilbane, Jackie Kimpton and Richard LaBotz in the unusually crowded field. Also filing Friday was Stewart Atkinson, challenging incumbent Kirk Robinson for the Position 5 seat.

State law now exempts park districts from primary elections, Flynn said, after some small districts convinced Olympia that the cost of running elections was burdensome.

The exemption does not apply to other “junior” taxing agencies like school and fire districts, which hold primaries as needed.

The Position 1 field:

John Grinter: The outdoor enthusiast and nature photographer has for the last three years led guided hiking and fishing tours of southeast Alaska. He’s now a stay-at-home dad, with his wife working for a Seattle law firm.

“I totally support the park program,” Grinter said. “I think they do a great job, and I want to continue that.”

Grinter boasts some distinction among volunteers who worked on the last park levy campaign – he was the mascot. He donned a Bigfoot suit and ambled around on the beach at the Wyckoff property for the benefit of passing commuters on the ferry.

Grinter also serves on the district’s trails committee, and says he would continue to work toward extension of that network.

“I think (the park board seat) is a great opportunity for a person with a passion for trails,” he said.

Grinter said he wants to see more partnerships between the district and local businesses and organizations, to enhance park programs and offerings.

Thomas P. Kilbane: A retired businessman, Kilbane boasts previous experience in government, having served as a county commissioner in Huron County, Ohio, from 1992-96.

That followed a school board stint, and he also chaired a levy campaign for a park district in his community there.

Kilbane’s connection with the Bainbridge Park District: as a walker and jogger, he has actively used most parks on the island, and he serves on the trails committee.

Kilbane also plays for the Senior Center softball team, and his grandchildren use the soccer, gymnastics and swimming programs.

He sees the park board opening as a way to get back into government and public service; the longtime owner of a 15-person advertising firm, he cites his experience in budgeting and management.

“I’m very positive about (the district),” Kilbane said. “I think they do an excellent job, really.”

Jackie Kimpton: The mother of two young children, Kimpton calls herself an “absolute user” of park district programs and facilities, particularly for aquatics.

That perspective, she says, would be useful as the park board allocates resources.

“Somebody called me up and asked me what beef I have with the parks, and I said I really don’t have one,” Kimpton said. “To tell the truth, I love the park district. I think it’s an incredible thing.”

While it’s her first try at elected office, Kimpton volunteered with the Bainbridge Island Land Trust in its formative years, and also was a member of the South Bainbridge Community Association.

She now volunteers with the Bainbridge Island Swim Club, and swims with the masters program.

Richard LaBotz: A retired architect, LaBotz sees considerable opportunity in the park district’s older, often disused buildings.

He cites the historic transmitter building at Battle Point Park – currently used for storage – and the downtrodden Camp Yeomalt cabin.

“Those are the most dismal buildings on Bainbridge Island, and they’re right in the middle of our parkland,” LaBotz said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

LaBotz would like to see physical improvements on district holdings, perhaps wildlife blinds at Meigs Park. He also has drawn up plans for a wooden viewing platform at what he calls “Stump Point,” the popular and scenic clearing on the west side of Gazzam Lake.

The current lack of improvements, he said, is less a matter of money than of attitude.

“I know people are concerned about the livelihood of the critters and think it’s okay to have no man-made improvements,” LaBotz said. “But you’ve got to have some – you’ve got to have something to welcome people and let them know it’s okay to go on that land.”

Sarah “Sally” Matthews: A retired librarian, Matthews is a user of various park facilities including the aquatic center, and is vice-chair of the Senior Center board.

She sees the island’s senior citizens – who, she notes, are even using ball fields these days – as an under-represented demographic.

“Over the years, I have always tried to contribute something to wherever I was,” Matthews said, “and I thought this was a reasonable thing to get involved with.”

Her previous experience includes chairing a successful $4.6 million bond drive for a new library in Port Angeles.

Position 5 race: An 11th-hour filer against incumbent Kirk Robinson, Stewart Atkinson said he is primarily concerned with planning on the Hall Property that’s “almost in my back yard.”

The Wing Point waterfront parcel was purchased under the city’s open space program.

An engineer by trade and kayaker by avocation, Atkinson said he has no specific ideas about how the property should be used, but wants to be in on the planning process.

One idea he suggested is adding the park to the Cascadia Marine Trail of waterfront campsites around Puget Sound.

“There are myriad possibilities, and I don’t profess to know the answer to all of them,” Atkinson said. “I’m a pretty good listener, and given appropriate input, I think I can contribute.”

Other races: Incumbents Ken DeWitt (Position No. 2) and Dave Shorett (Position No. 4) are unopposed, while the Position No. 3 seat held by Tom Swolgaard is not up for election this year.

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