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Bainbridge bids farewell to council trio
Out of the frying pan and into the flattery.
The city of Bainbridge Island held a farewell ceremony for its departing council members at this week’s meeting.
With just two more council meetings remaining in their terms, leaving the dais are council members
Bob Scales, Debbi Lester and Kirsten Hytopoulos.
“It’s fair to say that if you’ve ever served on the Bainbridge Island City Council you’re part of a brotherhood or sisterhood of people,” said state
Sen. Christine Rolfes in a speech praising Hytopoulos.
“One day you’re an informed, engaged and generally well-respected citizen and then you get elected to the city council. And your life changes,” said Rolfes, who is also a former Bainbridge councilwoman.
Hytopoulos has served on the Position 3, South Ward seat since 2010.
During her tenure, she has represented the city as a member of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council and the Kitsap Board of Health. She has also advocated for environmental protection in a number of capacities.
Prior to her election, her community involvement spanned from founding Green Voices for Bainbridge Island to serving as a spokeswoman for the campaign to adopt the council-manager form of government. In addition to her work with the city and community, Hytopoulos practices family law on the island.
Taking over her duties in January will be Roger Townsend.
“I think we’ve got to try to see that there is truth in both ends of the spectrum,” Hytopoulos said in her exiting remarks. “A lot of people who have been called bullies, there is a greater truth in what they’re looking for and what they’re asking for and they need to be listened to.”
“I say this as a someone who is a mediator in my regular life: Not everything can be compromised. Not everything is a matter of not having an agenda and just getting along. There are things that people shouldn’t compromise on,” she said. “So I really hope that somehow we find a middle ground in this community where we recognize that it’s not black-and-white.”
“I was pretty depressed when Debbi told me she would be running for city council,” said Greg Robinson, the executive director of the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art.
“And I have to be honest, I was absolutely devastated, maybe for some reasons other than some of your own, when she became mayor. On the other hand, I was thrilled when she told me that her term was ending,” he said. “And why? Because our great, diverse art world gets Debbi Lester back 200 percent.”
Lester has served on the Position 5, Central Ward seat since 2010.
Much of her work on and off the dais has focused both on improving transportation for residents and giving more exposure to the local arts community.
She has lobbied to keep ferry fares fair and service dependable. And as a council member, she has also encouraged numerous island-wide non-motorized transportation improvements.
Alongside city council, Lester has worked for 20 years as the publisher for Art Access Magazine, a Northwest-based arts publication.
With her involvement in the arts community, Lester has promoted public art, community gardens and the multitude of island organizations and programs over the course of her tenure.
Succeeding Lester in the Central Ward seat will be Wayne Roth.
“My greatest lesson learned serving on various boards has been that it’s never an individual,” Lester said. “It’s always a community.”
In addition to her exit remarks, Lester gifted each council member, both new and old, official name plaques to use during meetings.
“Every day we do our job we have to make the commitment to see clearly, listen carefully and act wisely,” said Joanne Tews, the executive director of Helpline House. “Bob, I want to thank you for being green, for being comfortable with a small fan club and aligning your values with your actions.”
An island resident since 1999, Scales has served on the Position 7, North Ward seat for two four-year terms. He served from 2004 to 2007 prior to the council-manager form of government and again from 2010 to today.
In 2010, he was also elected by the council to serve as mayor.
Scales has more than 15 years of experience in city and county government and currently works as the director of government affairs in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
Stepping into the North Ward position next year will be newly-elected Val Tollefson.
In his exit speech, Scales explained that it’s been eye-opening working on the council and seeing first hand how things work behind the scenes, but also experiencing how the community perceives each council member.
“When I was first on the council the first four years, I think I was viewed as a property rights activist,” Scales said. “But this time around, this time around, I’ve heard people call me an environmental advocate … You are how you vote.”
“It is a public service whether you’re an elected official or city employees,” he continued. “You’re not doing it for the fame and fortune. You’re doing it because you care about the community and you want to give back.”
All three council members decided earlier this year against seeking re-election.
Townsend, Roth and Tollefson were elected to council during the November 2013 General Election.
Despite new council members coming in and former council members leaving, Hytopoulos reminded the audience at the meeting that it’s more than the council the community elects.
“What I thought was true when I came in and what I know now going forward, is that no matter what form of government we put into play, no matter who we elect, our community is not going to be able to just plug in and play,” Hytopoulos said. “We have to be engaged.”