Saying, “My wife Ann and I are at a point in our lives where we must choose between the all-consuming demands of public service and the equally consuming demands and opportunities of our private lives and our family,” County Commissioner Steve Bauer announced his resignation, effective at the either the end of February or early in March.
The resignation was announced in a late-afternoon e-mail sent in advance to elected officials, and then officially at the Jan. 10, County Commissioner’s meeting, where he read a 4-page letter detailing his reasons for resigning, as well as highlighting some of the accomplishments he is most proud of.
Bauer was appointed the North End commissioner in July of 2007 after Chris Endresen resigned to accept a position as State Director for Senator Maria Cantwell. He was elected to a full term of his own in 2008. A former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard, Bauer previously served as Bellevue’s city manager and as director of finance and administration for Portland, Oregon.
In 2006, he was hired as a consultant to complete a comprehensive evaluation of Kitsap County’s Department of Community Development. He was also and active in his home community of Hansville, serving as president of the Hansville Community Center Board.
Bauer holds a Masters of Public Administration from the University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. in government from Columbia University in New York City.
In his letter of resignation, Bauer stated that since taking office in 2007, two members of his family have contracted cancer, and the experiences have taught he and his wife Ann that, “…we can’t take a single day for granted. The opportunities we pass up — and there have been many these last few years — may never come again. Our parents are aging, our five grandchildren are growing like weeds and we need to be in their lives.”
He added that, “There are many folks capable of being County Commissioner. But no one else can fill my roles as Son, Brother, Husband, Dad, Uncle and Grandfather. After almost four years’ in office, it is clear I can’t fill those personal roles and be County Commissioner at the same time. During my career in local government, I often placed the interests of my family and myself behind the demands of public service. The time has come to put family and friends first.”
He was especially complimentary of his wife, saying, “Ann and I have taken on the challenge of being Commissioner as a team. She has been a terrific confidant and supporter. I want to thank her and our Family for their support and sacrifices while I have been in office.”
Bauer said if he thought the huge challenges ahead could be overcome in the two years remaining in his term, he would gladly stay, but believes the truly significant challenges of the County budget, the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership, reshaping the future of Kitsap Transit, and more will take several years to accomplish.
“Actions in the next two years will lay the groundwork for later successes, Bauer stated. “I think the public will be best served if the same person works on these issues for the next several years.”
Bauer also said that his proudest accomplishments include serving as Chair of the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority in 2009 to help save it from bankruptcy after years of bad Board and management decisions threatened more than 1,000 low income housing units, as well as elderly and dependent residents. While the agency finished 2010 in the black, and is on track to a bright future, he devoted two to three days per week on Housing Authority business — on top of normal County business — to help guide the agency’s recovery.
He also said he is especially proud of the County’s “Water as a Resource” Policy that he believes will change how water is treated in the future, as well as his work on the North Kitsap Legacy Partnership, which will preserve more than 6,000 acres of open space forever.
He also cited helping Kingston get a new park and helping the community and the new Metropolitan Park District move forward with a new community center, library, Boys and Girls Club and senior housing. He also noted that Kingston will soon have a new downtown Master Plan that will help that community become one of the most vibrant and attractive areas in the County, and how the purchase of Norwegian Point Park in Hansville virtually assures that the Coast Guard will turn over the Point No Point lighthouse and grounds to the County.
“I am proud of the things that we have accomplished during my tenure,” he said. “And by “We” I mean County staff, the other Commissioners and me. No County Commissioner achieves the big things by themselves.”
He thanked County employees, “…for their intelligence, their skills, their commitment to public service and their love for living in this special place. I’ve been privileged to work with public employees all my career and I can truthfully say that I’ve never worked with a better group.”
Bauer also specifically singled out two people for special thanks and recognition — Deanna Erstad and Rebecca Pirtle, who he said have been hugely helpful to him and to the constituents and communities of his District. He also lauded volunteers Walter Briggs (the Navy’s forester) and Arno Bergstom (the County Extension forester), for drafting a Forest Stewardship Program for all County forestlands, including most of its larger parks, noting the program could also be used to manage future North Kitsap Legacy forests.
As it did when Bauer was appointed, the Democratic Party will select his replacement. He has timed his departure to give the process enough time to play out and not have a vacant seat on the commission, as was the case when he was appointed.
He ended his resignation letter by saying, “There is never a good time to leave. There will always be incomplete projects. There will always be people and causes to protect. But I am clear that this is the right time for Ann and me to chart a new course in our lives. I hope you will understand.”
“People often bemoan the loss of civility in our public conversations. Indeed, I’ve encountered my share of folks who can’t resist the temptation to demonize elected officials and staff rather than dealing with the issues at hand. Folks say to me, “It must be tough having people criticize you all the time.” The constant surprise for me has been the number of folks who just come up and say ‘Thank you for your service. Thanks for all that you do and the sacrifices you make to do this job.’ All I can say in return is ‘Thanks for giving me this opportunity to serve Kitsap County.’”