Friday, March 30, 2007

Angel Elects Not To Seek Third Term As Commissioner

If you read a few posts down, you'll understand why it came as no surprise to me that South Kitsap County Commissioner Jan Angel, a Republican, has decided not to seek a third term as county commissioner. I can't say I blame her.

Originally elected in 2000 when she unseated Democratic incumbent Charlotte Garrido, and re-elected by a wide a margin when she beat Garrido again in 2004, Angel told the Business Journal in an exclusive interview that there were a number of reasons for her decision, as well as timing of her announcement.

“I wanted to give both the party and any potential candidates enough time to organize their base of support, as well as get up to speed on the issues.” In what might be viewed as a dig at fellow Commissioner Chris Endresen, she added, “I also believe that two terms is more than enough time for someone in this job.”

Angel said the reasons for her decision are both personal and political, but in the end, after consulting with senior state party officials, she’s been offered some very attractive opportunities that she wants to pursue. When asked specifically what those are, she would only say that the prospect of running for a statewide office has a very distinct appeal — and added as almost an afterthought — as well as accepting possible positions in both state government as well as the private sector. Angel is well thought of by state party leaders and considered to be a bit of a rising star at the state level.

I think — and this is pure speculation on my part — she may have a go at the state Treasurer's post. Her background in banking and finance make her a good fit. Commissioner of Public Lands could also be a possibility if — and it's a big if — Doug Sutherland retires. Sutherland is also a Republican, has a good relationship with Angel, and her experience in land use would almost make her a natural for the job.

Knowing Jan, I also don't see her being a lame duck, but instead, look for her to take off the gloves for the rest of her time in office. Why shouldn't she? She doesn't have anything to lose. I believe from this point forward, Jan will say what's really on her mind, pull out all the stops to get things she wants, and won't hesitate to lay the blame on Chris Endresen and/or Josh Brown for anything that doesn't happen. It's no big secret that she and Endresen have anything but a mutual admiration society going.

The county's oncoming train wreck — the next budget cycle — will be a huge issue Angel can lay right at the feet of Endresen if she chooses to. She's been outvoted 2-1 on most issues for her entire time in office, so that automatically puts Endresen and the Democrats — right or wrong — on the defensive.

Angel’s departure also leaves a huge void for the local Republicans. There isn’t any single dominant candidate in the south end at this point who commands the respect Angel does from the voters. A couple of names have already surfaced though. Steve Stagner — if he's interested — would make an excellent candidate capable of winning. Another name that has popped up is Thor Holm. Holm is an ex-Marine (is there really any such thing?) and past president of the Kitsap County Association of Realtors. He's a no-BS straight shooter and straight talker. While his no-nonsense, military demeanor (not necessarily his politics) may play only questionably well in liberal North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, it suits SK pretty well.

On the Democratic side, Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel has indicated she will announce her decision whether to seek another term as mayor, or take a run at Angel's seat, by the end of March. Also rumored to be interested is Monte Mahan, son of Port Commissioner, and former County Commissioner Bill Mahan, and Virgil Hamilton, head of the Olympic Peninsula Building Trades Council. Hamilton, who has worked closely with Angel on NASCAR, has said he’d seriously consider the job — but only if Angel didn’t run.

When asked if her strong support of NASCAR was an issue in her decision to bow out, Angel emphatically answered, “Absolutely not. I believe it is the best thing that could happen here, and I’ll continue to work to make it a reality.”

On a personal note, I’ve known Jan Angel for about 25 years, and known her husband, Lynn Williams, even longer. He was one of the first people I met when coming to Kitsap County in 1975 when my first wife went to work for him. I consider both Jan and Lynn to be friends.

Jan is as honest as they come, and takes people at face value until they prove she can’t. If she has a political weakness, it’s perhaps being too trusting of people in an arena where knowledge and information are currency. But one of the things I admire most about Jan, is that she is also a person with the courage of her convictions and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. In her time as commissioner, she’s endured blatantly partisan political adversity with a graciousness and style few people possess.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed this job, and have some major projects I want to accomplish before I leave,” she added. But it’s just time for a change for me." I sincerely believe her departure will be Kitsap County’s loss.

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