Elliott, Kirschner differ on subtleties | Port of Kingston Commission

From left, Port of Kingston Commission candidates Walt Elliott and Jerry Kirschner. - File photos
From left, Port of Kingston Commission candidates Walt Elliott and Jerry Kirschner.
— image credit: File photos

KINGSTON – Walt Elliott and Jerry Kirschner are running against each other for Kingston Port Commission. But they have a lot more in common than not.

Kirschner and his wife, Nancy Langwith, decided to live in Kingston after seeing the volunteer efforts that turned the old Navy housing site into Village Green Park. Elliott and his wife, Bobbie Moore, have been involved in Village Green from the start; Moore is now chairwoman of the Village Green Metropolitan Park District and executive director of the Village Green Foundation.

Kirschner is chairman of the Passenger-Only Ferry Advisory Committee, which spurred the restart of SoundRunner ferry service between Kingston and downtown Seattle. Elliott is chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee and is an advocate for the service that SoundRunner provides.

Elliott is an at-large member of the Kingston Citizens Advisory Committee; Kirschner’s wife is a member, representing the Downtown Kingston Association.

Their involvements have been spurred by a vision of the Port of Kingston as an engine for economic development, enhanced community life, and more ambitious management of the waterfront. But what sets them apart is the breadth of that vision.

Elliott wants to make marina slips more available for Kingston residents. He said 43 percent of slips are used by Kingston boaters, and the wait for a slip can be as long as 10 years. “Things could be done to make slips more accessible,” he said. “People who live in town should have a fair shot.” He thinks this could be accomplished by giving Kingston residents preference on the waiting list. Moorage rates are lower than in Edmonds, so he’d charge a higher rate to non-residents to “eliminate bargain hunters.” He supports installing mooring buoys to increase capacity for boats without expanding the marina.

He believes grant money is available to build an upland area where boats can be hauled out for repairs. “We shouldn’t have to go to Edmonds for essential work such as underwater repairs,” he said on a campaign mailer.

Elliott believes SoundRunner is an important component of economic revitalization. He wants the commission to stick to the passenger ferry’s business plan, which gives it three more years to become sustainable. “The plan for SoundRunner and progress in meeting goals needs to be tracked and reported to the public,” he said in his platform. “If, after three years, SoundRunner isn’t self-sustaining with riders, partners and grants, the community needs to vote about (whether) a subsidy is acceptable and, if so, how much.”

He wants the port to be a good environmental steward: requiring biodegradable cleaners be used in the marina; work with Washington State Ferries to get treatment of stormwater runoff from the ferry holding lanes up to “Best Management Practice standards”; and offer boater education on environmental best practices.

He wants Kingston to push for Clean Marina certification; certified marinas are those proven to reduce and properly manage hazardous waste, conduct marina operations with the goal of protecting the environment, educate boaters on clean boating practices, and demonstrate innovative and environmental leadership.

Lastly, he thinks the port should do more to encourage community involvement. “When you help volunteers, you get $1 back for every dime you put into it,” he said. “If you had any large business in town, it’s what they’d be doing.” In that vein, “I feel I have the ability to work well with the community and reach out to the community,” Elliott said. “I have the business skills. I grew up in a waterfront town and that shaped my future.”

Kirschner considers SoundRunner “the most critical issue facing Kingston today.” SoundRunner, which restarted in June, is on the cusp of demonstrating cost savings and revenue increases, he said, and making it a seasonal service now would have significant costs: The service would lose the faith of commuters. There would be costs associated with restarting and finding new staff. The port would need to maintain the vessels while they’re mothballed.

Kirschner said SoundRunner’s revenue will come from five areas: Commuters, visitors from Seattle, special events, leasing out the backup boat, and grants. SoundRunner resumed service in June after many travelers had made summer plans, putting more pressure on commuter revenue, he said. SoundRunner has joined the North Kitsap Tourism Consortium in preparation for 2012, putting it in a good position to attract summer travelers.

Kirschner believes SoundRunner is an important economic development tool for Kingston. “It’s not a commuter vehicle. It’s a strategic asset for the community.

Kirschner said the port district can be a facilitator for economic development and more marine-related activity in Kingston. He would recruit retirees for a faculty of mentors to advise new businesses, and said the port can help match new businesses with appropriate commercial space.He wants to partner with a sailing school to get a youth sailing program going in Kingston. “This is an opportunity missed for our young people,” he said. He also wants to see more marine-oriented recreational activity in the harbor.

Regarding parking, he said there are a number of underutilized paid-parking lots in Kingston that could be leased by the port to provide parking. “The port knows how to run parking areas,” he said. A possible solution to those long ferry lines on State Route 104: He said the port and Washington State Ferries should develop a system whereby customers could buy their tickets on 104 and park in those port-leased parking lots. Then, they could get out of their cars and spend time downtown until it’s time to board the ferry, rather than sit in their cars and wait with no amenities and no restrooms.

He would work with the state Department of Natural Resources and Kitsap County to start a program to ensure boats at anchor in Apple Tree Cove are not at risk of sinking and polluting. He would also ensure the port verifies that boats in the marina are not derelict and have adequate insurance.

Kirschner said one of the greatest assets to the district is its residents, and he wants to expand opportunities for residents to become involved and share their talents. Citizens advisory committees would enable residents to demonstrate their leadership skills. “And with a broader scope of input, commissioners can make better decisions,” he said.

Bachelor of science, U.S. Naval Academy. Master’s degree in engineering management, Catholic University.

Career: U.S. Navy officer; commanded the USS Henry Jackson and USS Simon Bolivar; led a Navy research, engineering and industrial enterprise in Newport, R.I.

Community service: Chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee; co-chairman of the Washington Council of Ferry Advisory Committees; member of the Kingston Citizens Advisory Council, Kingston Parks and Trails Committee, Kingston Sub-Area Plan Steering Committee.

Other: Has kept a boat at the Port of Kingston marina for 20 years.

Bachelor’s degree, Xavier University. PhD in chemistry, Purdue University.

Career: 26 years with Eli Lilly and Co, of which 20 years were in management positions.

Community service: In Kingston, chairman of the Passenger Only Ferry Advisory Committee. In Indiana, served as a director of the Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union and the Terra Haute Symphony, two-term president of his church parish council.

Other: Earned a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton master’s license; sailing more than 35,000 miles, including two ocean crossings, with his wife, Nancy.

There are three Port of Kingston commissioners. Each is elected to a six-year term. Port commissioners are empowered by state law to set objectives, policies and overall direction for the port district. They wield considerable authority: They can exercise the right of eminent domain, levy and collect assessments on property within the district without voter approval to provide services to the public, and issue bonds and impose excess levies for specific purposes.

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