Jefferson County Board of Commissioners candidates talk about salary raise, pot
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Candidates for the Jefferson County Commissioner DIstrict 3 seat appear at a forum in Brinnon on Monday night. From left are Joe Baisch, Kathleen Kler, Alex Borgeson and Dan Toepper.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

BRINNON — Salary isn't an important factor for a county commissioner, three of the four candidates for Jefferson County's District 3 seat told those attending a voter forum this week.

About 55 people jammed into the tiny Brinnon Booster Club for the Monday night forum, which was moderated by Marjorie Mueller.

Ballots were mailed today for the Aug. 5 primary election. The top two voter-getters in the primary in races with more than two candidates will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Candidates appearing were sheriff candidates Wendy Davis and Ken Przygocki; 24th Legislative District incumbent Steve Tharinger and one of his challengers, Tom Greisamer; and county commissioner candidates Joe Baisch of Brinnon, Kathleen Kler of Quilcene and Alex Borgeson and Dan Toepper, both of Port Ludlow.

Not take a raise

Baisch and Borgeson both said they would not accept raises.

In March, the county commissioners approved a $73,951 salary, a 15.6 percent increase over the current $63,926, to take place in January 2017 for all three commissioners.

“I do think that $63,926 is almost already too much,” said Borgeson, 44, who is retired from the Air Force.

“This raise doesn't take effect until 2017, but I will give away $10,000 to scholarship programs every year, even before I get the raise.

“I have a master's degree, and if you can get a guy who will work cheaper and has less education, that is probably a pretty good deal for you.”

Kler, 64, said she is “ready for whatever is ahead.

“I've always worked hard and have always earned less than other people because I've been a woman, but I'm ready to do it for whatever the pay is.”

Kler, a retired nurse, said “county commissioners have been accused of not earning their money.

“But they are lucky if their weeks are only 40 hours.”

Said Baisch, 66, a South County businessman: “The issue isn't the money; it's what's getting done and what's not getting done.

“I think the commission needs a business voice, and we have to look at some of the sales tax revenue that leaves the county and develop some strategies to keep it in the county.”

County charter

Toepper, 53, a retired heavy-equipment operator, said a proposed county charter, which was defeated by voters in 2013, would have addressed these issues.

“I don't want to look back,” he said. “We need to move forward.

“We tried to get a few more commissioners' representation and maybe spread it out a little better and maybe make it a part-time job.

“We would have gotten the referendum and initiative that would have provided a little more accountability to the offices.

“The three commissioners make a lot of decisions about the county, and that's something you need to consider when voting for any one of us.”

Kler is a Democrat. Baisch and Toepper filed with no party preference. Borgeson prefers the independent party.

Sheriff candidates

Borgeson told the two candidates for sheriff that after he was robbed, he was told by the person at the desk that Sheriff Tony Hernandez, who is not running for re-election, was “too busy” to talk to him then or at any time in the future.

“I'm a man of the people and not above the people, and I don't want to vote for someone who thinks they are a lord and everyone else is a serf,” Borgeson said.

“But I want to know, if you are elected, are you going to have time?”

Both candidates said they would be responsive to individual queries.

“I may be very busy, but I will never be too busy to call you back, meet with you or talk to you on the phone about your concerns,” said Davis, 47, a Democrat and former Bremerton and Poulsbo police officer who lives in Port Ludlow.

“What prepared me the most for this job is talking to people, learning about concerns, speaking outside the box of traditional law enforcement and determining how I can help people in the community solve problems.”

Said Przygocki, 63, who is retired from the State Patrol and who filed with no party preference: “Communication is very important, and everyone in the department needs to be approachable.

“I will have an open-door policy, I will be happy to call you back.

“I expect that when my deputies leave the scene of a crime that you will be satisfied,” he continued.

“I expect them to spend time with you to see exactly what they can do for you to help you recover the property or whatever the case is.”

Medical marijuana

Tharinger, 65, and Greisamer, 73, differed in their stance on marijuana, with Greisamer stating that he doesn't believe the drug has any medical value.

Tharinger, a two-term Sequim Democrat, faces primary election challenges from Conway, a Sequim Libertarian, and Greisamer, a Moclips Republican, to represent the 24th District in the state Legislature.

The 24th District covers Jefferson and Clallam counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.

Conway did not attend the forum.

“I think medical marijuana is a hoax,” Greisamer said.

“Maybe 10 percent of the people who use it get some medical benefit, but most people are using [authorizations] to get pot.

“Some people are celebrating the fact that Washington has legalized this now, saying that people will flock here, use legal marijuana and go home happy.

“This is such a misguided thing,” Greisamer continued.

“Part of the problem in schools right now are kids who come to school stoned or abused or sleepy, impaired in some way.

“It's a problem for them; it's a problem for our society.”

Tharinger said that in the '60s, “I never thought I'd be in the Legislature talking about pot, but I'm here.

“I do differ from my opponent here. We had some very compelling testimony in the Legislature about medical marijuana, like a retired Marine who used [non-psychoactive] marijuana to treat his young son's epilepsy.”

Approved in 2012

State voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012.

Tharinger said he heard projections of $450 million in retail marijuana-related tax revenue, and his response was, “What are you smoking?”

“There is the idea that we are going to use marijuana tax to fund our obligation to the schools, but I think that's a little hopeful,” he said.

“There will be challenges, there is no question, and I think four-way stops will become pretty interesting.”

The commissioner candidates were slated to appear at the Port Townsend Rotary Club on Tuesday and have one more pre-primary forum scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Quilcene Community Center, 294952 U.S. Highway 101.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 15. 2014 7:39PM
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