The closest non-city council race on Bainbridge this election saw incumbent Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park & Recreation District Commissioner John “Tom” Swolgaard retaining his long-held seat in Position 3, according to the initial results of Tuesday night’s election, by only about 300 votes.
He claimed 2,327 votes (53.1 percent), while challenger Rachel Pritchett, a former local journalist, earned 2,022 votes (46.1 percent).
Swolgaard, a licensed architect, had said in his last term the park district acquired nearly 100 additional acres of open space, renovated Rotary Centennial Park, and built the now-iconic, all-access Owen’s Playground, in addition to adding about four miles of trails to the map and new restrooms in several parks.
Acquiring still more additional open space, rebuilding the pool, and improving recreational facilities are his stated to priorities for this term.
Swolgaard could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Pritchett, who boasts 34 years of local journalism experience and was founding editor of the Bainbridge Islander, had said she was concerned the public is not being adequately informed of the construction options regarding two costly projects — the potentially revamped aquatic center and Sakai Park, specifically — and promoted herself as a “moderating voice,” vowing to relocate the park district offices to downtown Winslow, claiming the easier access may encourage increased public attendance at meetings and would be worth what would be comparatively minor expenses.
On Tuesday night Pritchett said she was disappointed, but respectful of the will of voters.
“I’m disappointed, for sure,” she said, citing her critical views on the proposed new pool and the incumbent’s generally inherent advantage as the probable primary reasons for her defeat.
“I didn’t think Bainbridge was the right place for an Olympic-sized pool,” she said. “I knew when I did that I’d get some negative votes. It’s hard to go out on something that’s negative. I would get the Masters swimmers and some swim clubs against that. But I had to be truthful and that’s what I did. And I knew that.
“That probably counted against me.”
Of her opponent’s lengthy tenure at the park district, Pritchett said she remains concerned there are no term limits for commissioners.
“I thought that he was in office too long,” she said. “It’ll be 24 years now that he’ll have served, and that’s far too long under any measurement of government. But that’s the decision of the voters and I respect that.”