SEQUIM — The candidates shared some similar views of the issues they would have to tackle if elected, but as their closing statements at their first post-primary election debate made clear, Bruce Emery and Cherie Kidd have contrasting backgrounds they would bring to the job as director of the Clallam County Department of Community Development.
Emery and Kidd shared thoughts on a number of topics including urban growth, time it takes to get development permits, affordable housing and enforcement at the Sequim Rotary Club’s debate at the Dungeness River Center on Friday, just three days after the pair emerged from a four-candidate race in the 2022 top-two primary election.
The two will face each other for the position on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Ballots go in the mail Oct. 19.
Clallam is the only county in the nation where the Department of Community Development (DCD) director is an elected rather than appointed position.
Emery, a former Clallam County planner, received 8,334 votes, or 30.37 percent, as of Tuesday, while Kidd, the former Port Angeles mayor, received 7,654 votes, or 27.9 percent.
In the primary, Jesse Major, a public records analyst with Clallam County and former code enforcement officer as well as a former reporter for the Peninsula Daily News, placed third after receiving 6,749 votes, or 24.6 percent as of Tuesday.
Kevin Russell, twice the former president of the North Peninsula Builders, was fourth and received 4,435 votes, or 16.16 percent.
Emery was an assistant and association planner in the DCD from 1993-2004 and a senior planner from 2004-2007. Since 2007, he has worked as a project manager with North Pointe Construction LLC in Port Angeles.
“I have over 14 years of experience with the department and understand full well how it runs,” Emery said Friday, noting his background in establishing policies and regulations during his time as a county planner.
“My opponent has a great background in public service; I respect her very much,” he said.
“But there is a distinction: I’ve actually done the work the director will be overseeing.
“I’ve also worked in the private sector and seen first-hand the impact the department and other departments in the area have had on the development community and the community at large.
“It takes someone who is intimately familiar with how it all works.”
Kidd has 16 years in public service, including time on the Port Angeles City Council and as chair of the Planning Commission, and pointed Friday to her work to save the William Shore Pool from closing and getting safety fencing on the Eighth Street bridges.
Said Kidd, “The good news is, you have two good choices … I would like your vote because it’s ‘Director of Community Development,’ not ‘Planner of Community Development.’ This is a management position … that works with the county commissioners, that works with the community, that manages the department but doesn’t micro-manage.
“[This role is a] community leader, an elected official. When people ask me for advice in running for office, I tell them, ‘It’s totally different than being a member of staff.’”
Both candidates said permitting for construction projects takes too long; both want to streamline the process, though Emery noted that “Clallam County is actually relatively efficient.”
Said Emery, “That doesn’t mean there can’t be more efficiencies.”
Said Kidd, “I want to look at cost and lower the cost of permitting.”
Both candidates said they are concerned about the rise of short-term, Airbnb-style housing that is affecting the housing market, and both said they would study how other municipalities and counties handle policies regarding short-term rentals.
“It’s time we look at policies to regulate Airbnbs,” Kidd said. “We have to set limits for the integrity of our neighborhoods.”
Emery, however, said curtailing the rights of property owners who are looking to establish short-term rentals is tricky.
“I don’t believe in throwing out the baby with the bath water. Regulation can do a lot, but it can’t do everything. Regulation is like chemotherapy … the patient has to be sick.”
Both candidates took on questions regarding housing, or the lack thereof.
Emery agreed about permitting costs, saying many of those fees should be paid for or reduced since the public is receiving a benefit.
He said development of infrastructure in the county is key, but within the Urban Growth Areas.
“We live in a gorgeous place; we need to protect it,” he said.
For more about Clallam County elections, visit clallam.net/Auditor/Elections.html.
Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].