PORT ANGELES — The two candidates for the only elected Department of Community Development director position in the U.S. believe the position should be appointed rather than letting voters make the choice.
Mary Ellen Winborn, Clallam County DCD incumbent director, and challenger Julie Gardiner squared off Tuesday before a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast gathering of more than 40 participants. The two will face each other in the Nov. 6 general election.
Winborn said her position “should be the tool of the county commissioners.”
“People are unsure who to address their problems to.”
Gardiner said making the position elected attracts an irregular range of skill sets, calling Clallam “an outlier” among other counties but asserting the job “probably” should be elected.
Gardiner, asked for clarification in a later interview Tuesday, said she misspoke.
“Without minimum qualifications, no, it should be appointed,” Gardiner said, comparing the position to the county prosecuting attorney.
Said Winborn: “It should be an appointed position.”
Gardiner, general manager of the law office of her husband, Craig Miller, has a master’s degree in land use planning.
Winborn, a one-term incumbent in the nonpartisan position, is a former architect.
The exchange between them during the 70-minute forum grew testy when Gardiner suggested that having elected directors risks the potential that “unqualified” people will get elected.
She would bring more “consistency” to the office than Winborn, she said.
Winborn responded that Gardiner “does not know what an architect does.”
Winborn said being an architect gave her “a very broad range of knowledge.”
She was elected to the four-year position in 2014, defeating former longtime DCD employee and incumbent department director Sheila Roark Miller.
Gardiner declined the moderator’s offer to respond, saying, “I’m not going to get personal.”
“But you did,” Winborn muttered.
The two also disagreed on issues surrounding a lawsuit filed in federal District Court in Tacoma in December against Winborn and the county.
California landowner Judy Lee’s proposal was turned down to build what Lee said would be a 32,000-square-foot bed and breakfast with five bedrooms and 27 bathrooms on East Sequim Bay Road.
Winborn asserted that Lee wanted to build a hotel, a prohibited use.
Craig Miller, the former local point of contact for Lee’s lawyer, commented on her behalf at public meetings on the proposal from June-December 2016 and no longer represents her, Miller said Tuesday.
County Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez said Tuesday that Lee has to identify her expert witnesses for her lawsuit by Dec. 2, and the county must identify its expert witnesses by Dec. 23.
The trial is set for June 19.
Winborn and Gardiner were asked if the county is taking proper action on bed-and-breakfast issues.
“How can the proper action be proper if you are in federal court on a constitutional right to due process?” Gardiner asked, adding that the county “didn’t do it right.”
She said the DCD was “reactionary” toward the application and needed a cohesive vision of the future to be effective.
Gardiner, calling the proposed building a “monolith” and a “chateau,” said later that Lee’s application should have been rejected, but rejected as “incomplete,” giving Lee the opportunity “to do something about the 10,000 square feet.”
Winborn said “theme-park bed-and-breakfasts” do not fit rural character.
Asked how they would develop urban growth areas, Winborn said funds for infrastructure planning for west of Port Angeles are in her budget.
“We’ve done rezones out there, now we need to deal with some of the infrastructure out there and we need to come up with some objectives,” she said.
Putting a sewer system in Gales Addition east of Port Angeles would dramatically increase the allowed housing density, and added water availability in Carlsborg would aid in developing that area, Winborn said.
The existing comprehensive plan “has vision,” Gardiner said.
“It gets very little attention and not nearly the care and feeding it needs.
“It’s not one person or the director’s role to define what those priorities are.
“We administer advise and instruct, per the charter, and that’s it.”
According to the county charter, the DCD director “shall administer, enforce and advise the County Commissioners on all laws, except health, with respect to the environment, natural resources, and land and shoreline development, including, but not limited to, zoning, land divisions, environmental policy, building and fire codes, forest management, mining, agriculture, watershed planning, and floodplains.”
The director also “shall prepare and present to the County Commissioners for consideration of adoption by ordinance, with or without amendment, comprehensive or other plans and use or development regulations for the use and physical development of the county.”
The DCD director has a 2018 budget of $4.1 million and a workforce of 21.7 full-time-equivalent employees.
The position will pay $86,292 a year beginning Jan. 1, plus $32,529 in benefits, for $118,821 in compensation, plus a $4,080 annual vehicle allowance.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].