Snow, Stoknes announce bids for City Council

(Top) Chris Snow (above) Kjell Stoknes -
(Top) Chris Snow (above) Kjell Stoknes
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Both now serve with the Winslow Tomorrow Community Congress.

Both came to the island about 15 years ago after wrapping up years of government work. They see the island in similar ways, with visions almost a mirror of each other.

Now they’re entering local politics for the first time – hoping to replace two city councilors they say are already doing a fine job.

“Council­woman Christine Rolfes is doing a wonderful job, and I want that good work to be carried on,” said Chris Snow, 64, who is running for Rolfes’ south ward seat after she steps down at the end of the year. “The City Council is involved in important work, with Winslow Tomorrow, the Critical Areas Ordinance, shoreline rules, traffic. It’s important to have a business-like approach to bridge the differences in these issues so we have productive results for the community.”

Kjell Stoknes (pronounced “chell” “stoke-ness”), who announced his candidacy in the central ward now held by Deborah Vann, echoed Snow’s priorities and said he’d likely vote the same as the incumbent.

“Our only difference is in our backgrounds,” said Stoknes, a former urban planner. “When I heard Vann might not run again, I decided to run to make sure those interests continue.”

But Vann’s not yet sure if she’s bowing out.

“I’ll make up my mind in the next few weeks,” she said. “One of the reasons for not running would be to spend more time with family. A reason to stay is that there’s so much work to be done, especially with the environment, that I think, after four years, I really know what I’m doing. But I don’t know yet.”

Stoknes said he’ll stick with his bid for the council regardless of Vann’s decision.

Snow, the first hopeful to step up to succeed Rolfes, was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, but found his passion for foreign affairs while studying in Bangladesh.

He entered Yale University’s international relations program and soon began a long career in the U.S. Foreign Service. He was stationed in India, Pakistan, Bulgaria and France, overseeing federal educational and cultural programs.

Snow was sent to Iran in the tumultuous 1970s and to Israel during the first Gulf War. He finished up his 35 years of foreign service work in Washington, D.C. as the North Africa, Near East and South Asia Regional Director before moving to Bainbridge Island in 1998.

“I had always worked in diplomacy as an observer of other people’s governments,” he said. “I never had the privilege of participating, so it wasn’t very long until I got involved here on the island.”

Snow has served as the vice president of the Bainbridge Island Economic Council and is a Bainbridge Performing Arts board member.

He serves on the Winslow Tomorrow Community Congress and hopes to become more involved in downtown economic planning.

“It’s critical to the health and well-being of the island that we find a way to accommodate growth and development,” he said. “It’s also an absolute requirement that we preserve our natural landscapes without running afoul of the legitimate rights of landowners.”

Snow cautions that a failed community-led planning effort means the “Harbor Square and Island Crossings developments will lead development,” he said. “Growth is going to happen, but we can guide it and shape it at our own pace.”

Stoknes, 60, also places downtown planning at the top of his list, and also serves with the Community Congress. He hopes to see some regulations loosened to encourage mixed-use, higher-density development in Winslow’s core.

“Redev­elopment will happen eventually,” said Stoknes, the chair of Winslow Tomorrow’s transportation committee. “We can deny the changes, or embrace change and make the best of it for the island.”

Stoknes was born in Norway but moved to the U.S. at age 7. He earned a degree in economics from Western Washington University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Puget Sound.

He worked as a planner for the City of Kirkland and as Tukwila’s planning department director. Stoknes was also a property appraiser for 20 years, including work as Bank of America’s Northwest regional director.

“I’ve been constantly into government for the last 30 years, participating in land use and urban planning,” he said. “I’m comfortable with the terms, state law, local ordinances. I think the learning curve would be painless. I think I have a mind that’s not out-of-kilter with most of the island.”

Both Snow and Stoknes said fostering non-motorized travel, supporting local businesses and having a strong voice in the state ferry terminal redevelopment would be foremost among their efforts in the council.

Central ward Councilman Bill Knobloch is the only incumbent who has announced plans to run again. He and Councilwoman Debbie Vancil, who represents the north ward and is still mulling over a re-election bid, have yet to hear from challengers.

Mayor Darlene Kordonowy is also running for a second term, but no challengers have stepped up. Filing week is in July 11-29.

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