Editor's note: This is the third article in a three-part series on marijuana and the Key Peninsula.
Marijuana is big business, and growing marijuana is where that business begins. Washington state has collected more than $130.5 million in excise taxes and $40 million in sales taxes in the last year and a half, according to 502 Data, a website that tracks marijuana sales. Pierce County has collected nearly $10.6 million from excise taxes.
Marijuana growing on the Key Peninsula dates back to the ‘70s, when an influx of renegades took advantage of the rural, “let-well-enough-alone”setting. One member of the early Key Peninsula marijuana growers, who asked to remain anonymous, said he arrived in 1978, after about a decade of experience growing and selling in Arizona and Hawaii.
“It was a bit like the old West back then,”he said. “Land and water were cheap, you could live in a double-wide, and with about $15,000, you could get started.”
Growing was all outside, and everyone learned as they went.
“We flew by the seats of our pants,”he recalled. Over time, the growers honed their skills —combining strains, understanding how to grow clones (cuttings from plants allowing for pure strains from mother plants) and improving the yields.
By the mid-1980s, with the advent of indoor lights, growing moved inside. It meant that a grower could get two or three harvests in a year rather than be limited to one. At the same time, Californians arrived, bringing additional strains and expertise. “Guerilla gardening”took off.
That all changed in the early 1990s, when methamphetamine arrived. Those seeking a cheap high moved to the cheaper, more addictive drug.
“The pot market fell off the cliff,”the KP grower said.
At about that time, he was arrested, served a short time in jail and paid a significant fine. He quit growing and selling in the recreational market but had connections with those requesting medical marijuana —primarily AIDS patients. Although medical marijuana was not yet decriminalized, he was able to provide for that market. He feels he was left alone by the authorities at that time because he was serving a population in need.
“Most of the marijuana grown in Western Washington was grown on the Key Peninsula or near Bonney Lake,”he said. “Many of those growers are gone now. They lived hard lives.”
In 1998, when medical marijuana was decriminalized, the state allowed collectives to form. Patients and their caregivers could come together to grow their own supply and also donate to other patients.
Clint Pipkin, who now owns Herb-N-Wellness, said that early collective members had to feel their way —it was not entirely clear what was allowed. But he also said that for anyone wanting to be as legal as possible, joining a collective was the way to go. By 2000, collective gardens were pretty well established. Pipkin estimates that there are about a dozen of collectives on the Key Peninsula now.
Up to 10 patients (or their caregivers) could join in a collective, each growing up to 15 plants. Surplus cannabis could be sold or donated to other patients. The medicinal shops that first opened on the KP in 2010 served as a place to bring surplus and sell to those with medical authorization.
In July 2016, the rules pertaining to collective gardens will change. The number of people in a collective will be limited to four, and each person will be allowed to grow a maximum of six plants.
In addition, the stores will have to be licensed and will be required to purchase cannabis from state-licensed producers. At this time, growing for personal recreational use is illegal but some state legislators have said that they hope to introduce legislation that would allow individuals to grow small numbers of plants.
“The black market is still alive and well,”Pipkin said. “And I don’t think it is going to go away any time soon.”
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), now named the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, has written the rule that, in the words of Initiative 502, “takes marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and brings it under a tightly regulated, state-licensed system similar to that for controlling hard alcohol.”
In December 2013, a 30-day window opened to apply for growing and processing licenses. No further applications are available. According to the WSLCB website, more than 19,000 applications were received. To date, about 700 licenses have been issued. All others are pending. Six applications came from the Key Peninsula and one has been approved.
Chelsea Luke Brown, who with four other partners, owns Bud Brothers in Oak Harbor, described how their business became operational. The partners had a combination of backgrounds including tech, marketing, customer service and experience with growing medical marijuana.
After a few false starts in locating a site, they found a warehouse owner on Whidbey Island interested in leasing to marijuana growers. Once the warehouse was identified, it took nearly a year to demolish and rebuild the interior space. They planted their first crop in February 2015 and harvested about three months later.
Brown describes cultivation as an art. She emphasized the importance of appreciation for the quality of what they grow. The planting, feeding, trimming and timing of the harvest are done with great care.
State oversight is substantial. Producers can bring in their own stock within 15 days of receiving a license but then they can buy plants or seeds only from licensed growers. All plants must be tagged individually. Every lot must be tested for quality, including THC level (how strength is assessed). There are strict parameters for security cameras.
Once the buds are harvested, they are cut, dried, trimmed and packaged. Many growers are also processors —the plants are turned into resin or extracts. Retailers take it from there.
Six months after the first planting, Bud Brothers is sustainable —the costs are now covered and the business has the capacity to more than double its harvest once the electrical system has been upgraded. Brown said that they were worried about how they would be received in Oak Harbor, a relatively conservative community.
“We were very open about what we are doing, and we have been welcomed,”she said.
The Key Peninsula is poised to be at the center of innovation and coordination in ways we have never seen. And at the core of that action is a remarkable couple, Ben and Susan Paganelli.
The Milgard Family Foundation awarded a grant through the Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) this fall. Its purpose? To build an infrastructure that will help this community better serve our populations in need. In addition some funds are available to provide services that focus on hunger, transportation, and health and wellness.
“We are excited to be working together to build on what is already a vibrant and healthy community,”said Susan Paganelli. “Our job is to create a long-term plan based on the desires of the community, and to harness the existing strengths in a way that has not been done before.”
The couple, who recently established a consulting firm in Gig Harbor, is perfectly suited to lead the project.
They met during college, Susan with a background in education and Ben in international relations. Ben served in the U.S. Air Force and when his career took him overseas, Susan gave up her teaching to raise their three children. She also gained valuable experience as she immersed herself in volunteer work, with schools and international groups.
Ben’s work with the Air Force was initially in operations, but then shifted to strategic planning, including rebuilding Afghanistan.
After 22 years with the Air Force, the couple decided it was time to leave the military and join forces in a business together. “We had served our country,”Susan said. “Now we wanted to serve our community, but in a way that gave us a chance to put down roots. We wanted to let our kids get settled, not to move again.”
The first step was an advanced degree in international human rights for Susan while Ben taught at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. The next few years were busy. Susan was raised in the Pacific Northwest and Ben, originally from upstate New York, had come to love the area. In 2010 they found the house of their dreams in Gig Harbor, remodeled, settled their children in school, Susan completed her internship and they started their consulting business, VIA Unlimited.
Both Susan and Ben taught at Harbor Institute, part of TCC. It was through connections there that they heard about the Milgard grant and decided to apply for the position of director.
“Our work has been in capacity development,”said Ben. “That involves seeing what a community has, what they want and then creating a plan of action to get there.”
“We take an asset-based approach. We have already seen some great strengths and we expect there is more we don’t know about yet. This is an incredibly diverse community, and we are in an information gathering stage now,” he said.
They have met with many community leaders and the Key Peninsula Business Association, and have attended community events to gather information and simply to listen. They are impressed with the energy and passion for service that so many people on the Key Peninsula have demonstrated. But they commented those people have their hands full with their current commitments.
“It takes time and energy to bring cohesion to all of the good work that is done in this community,” said Susan. “People just can’t add one more thing to their plates.”
And that is exactly where the Paganellis come in.
Editor's note: This is the second article in a three-part series on marijuana and the Key Peninsula. The first provided historical background. Here the focus is on some of the risks and benefits as well as the impact of recent legislation on Key Pen dispensaries. The final article will cover cultivation.
For those whose exposure to marijuana is limited, or ended several decades ago, the cannabis landscape presents a whole new world, and the Key Peninsula is in the middle of that changing landscape. For now, those who qualify for medical use can make purchases at one of the six medicinal marijuana dispensaries along the KP Highway.
That will change next July, when dispensaries will be required to meet stricter regulatory requirements and will also serve customers buying recreational pot. The Pierce County Council is expected to approve an ordinance to allow recreational stores in unincorporated areas. But only one local dispensary will qualify to convert based on county zoning requirements — KP Healing Center, next door to the 76 station within the Lake Kathryn Village Rural Activity Center.
Passage of the ordinance requires four of seven votes from the council. At the Nov. 10 meeting, the council passed a budget amendment to establish a marijuana enforcement fund-in that provides the sheriff’s department and the prosecuting attorney’s office the resources needed to close the illegal dispensaries and prosecute violators. It will be funded by excise tax income from marijuana sales.
On Dec. 8, the council is expected to approve the ordinance, clearing the way to licensing a store on the Key Peninsula that could sell both medicinal and recreational marijuana.
By July 2016, all medical dispensaries must meet the same requirements as recreational shops to qualify for a license, as set by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. This includes zoning restrictions. Stores must be in rural activity center (RAC) zones and cannot be less than 1,000 feet from public spaces where children are present, such as schools, libraries and parks.
Councilman Derek Young, who represents the Key Peninsula and co-sponsored the ordinance, said that it is possible but very unlikely that zoning exceptions will be made.
KP Healing Center, which opened in early 2013, is the oldest of the current dispensaries. Nick Hetterscheidt, who runs the business, said, “We fully intend to continue to provide services to our medical patients, and will open our doors to the recreational market as well.”
Feelings and opinions about marijuana use are strong and divergent. Some see marijuana as dangerous and a gateway drug. Others see real benefit for medical patients who would suffer if unable to access what has made a big difference in their health and well-being.
But there is common ground as well. Law enforcement and the medical dispensary owners speak with a single voice on the issue of use by adolescents — they should not use it.
Present owners acknowledge that up until now regulation of their industry has been absent and that some regulation is warranted. But they also worry that the new rules will significantly decrease access, cost and choice for their patients. All the current operations say they have established patient registration, keep careful records to follow their clients and are passionate about the service they offer as well as the quality of their products.
Clint Pipkin, who along with his wife and brother owns the two Herb N Wellness dispensaries, is passionate about the benefits of medical marijuana. He was grateful when medical marijuana was decriminalized.
“We have come out from under the radar and people are beginning to understand that it can really be helpful,” he said.
When asked about recreational marijuana, he said, “We treat it like alcohol. It is not for everyone and certainly not for children.”
His stores currently do not meet zoning requirements for licensing. The shop in Key Center is less than 1,000 feet from the library and his second store is zoned as rural neighborhood center, not a rural activity center. Pipkin plans to appeal.
None of the other three local dispensaries plan to apply for licenses. KP Health and Wellness, near KP Healing Center, will close. Tony McGriff, who opened KP Medicinals in Home, said that his business has been slower than expected and he does not plan to apply for a license.
Bruce and Michelle Williams opened Purdy Farms Veganic in Key Center in July 2014. Their marijuana is not fertilized with animal products and they feel it is superior for those with immune deficiencies. They hope to qualify for a license to grow but plan to close their store by next July.
According to the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, “Adults who don’t have heart disease or psychiatric conditions, don’t get high during pregnancy or when it’s dangerous, and use pot occasionally probably aren’t at risk of any harm to their health.”
But there are concerns around use in adolescence and pregnancy, in large part because of the sensitivity of the developing brain. And the National Institutes of Health says there is strong evidence of a “link between marijuana use and psychotic disorders in those with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability. …Other, less consistent associations have been reported between marijuana use and depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts among teens, and personality disorders.”
According to a study in Lancet Psychiatry, a respected medical journal, no increase in use by teens was found in states that legalized medical marijuana.
A recent report by the Drug Policy Alliance showed no increase in adolescent use since legalization of recreational marijuana.
But the experience of the local sheriff’s department may reflect a different picture. Sgt. Brian Ward spoke with the school resource officer who is primarily located at Peninsula High. The officer observed that since legalization, he has seen a shift in attitude about marijuana — that teens are more likely to shrug off the impact of marijuana use. There have also been more reported incidents of dealing.
"Having been assigned to the drug unit for nine years in the past, I consider marijuana a ‘gateway drug’ when it comes to children,” said Lt. Larry Minturn. “Decriminalization sends the wrong message to our children. I personally think that before we as a society decide to loosen drug restrictions, we need to take into account what might be the effect on our kids, short term and long term."
According to the NIH website, more research is needed to determine whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug. In animal studies, it can prime the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs. But so do alcohol and tobacco, and most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other “harder substances.”
It is possible that people who are vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with more readily available substances and their subsequent social interactions with other drug users increases their chances of trying other drugs.
Ward said that in terms of crime on the Key Peninsula in general, butane extraction, which can result in exposions, has been more prevalent. He noted that there have been thefts both of crops and from the stores, but he did not feel that these have had a big impact on the work of his department.
The biology of cannabis
Although marijuana was introduced to this country in the early 1900s, it took decades for researchers to understand how it worked.
Cannabinoids are the components of most interest in marijuana — the two most studied are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). According to HistoryLink, an online resource for Washington state history, cannabinoid receptors in the brain were first discovered in 1990. In 1992, it was discovered that the body produces its own cannabinoids. They affect how humans relax, sleep, eat, forget and protect.
There are two species of marijuana — Indica and Sativa. Indicas are higher in CBD content; THC dominates Sativas. Hybrids have been bred to offer different balances in CBD and THC content. It is available for use in three forms: dried buds and flowers, as a compressed resin (hashish) and as an oil. It can be smoked, ingested or applied topically.
Cannabis sold now is not what it was 40 years ago. According to the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, it is, as measured by THC levels, two to seven times more potent than it was in the 1960s. This is in part because of selective breeding but also because what is now sold is flower buds rather than stems and leaves.
The National Institutes of Health website notes that THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid. It increases appetite and reduces nausea. The FDA-approved, THC-based medications are used for these purposes. THC may also decrease pain, inflammation (swelling and redness) and muscle control problems.
CBD is not psychoactive. It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions.
Researchers are exploring the possible uses of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids for medical treatment. Scientists are also conducting studies with marijuana and its extracts to treat numerous diseases and conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, pain, seizures, substance use disorders and mental disorders.
The Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) elected three new directors along with three incumbents at its meeting Nov. 11.
The KPC was established in 2004. As described on its website, the primary roles of the council are to:
Facilitate interactions between agencies, residents, businesses and nonprofit groups in an effort to develop solutions to resident concerns.
Act as a resource for Key Peninsula residents, businesses and non-profit organizations
Serve as a liaison to county, state, and federal government.
Assist in fund raising and volunteer recruitment efforts on behalf of other community agencies and groups.
KPC by-law amendments produced a new election process for 2015.
Board director terms remain at two years. Candidate applications are accepted any time during the year. At the annual meeting in November, current board members vote to elect new members.
Prior to this year, ballots were distributed through the KP News and residents of the Key Peninsula could vote via mail or at avoting booth in the Key Center Food Market. Poor voter turnout and the expense of running the election, both in dollars and volunteer time,prompted the change in bylaws.
Directors are elected by geographic location, as determined by census tracts. Geographically the areas are named from north to south, with Area 1 northernmost.
The newly elected directors are:
Area 1: Neil Sampson and Leona Lisa (both new to the council)
Area 2: Jeremiah Saucier (new) and Danna Webster (incumbent)
Area 3: Chuck West (incumbent)
Area 4: Rian Ticino (incumbent)
Cindy Worden was appointed to serve at large for a one-year term due to the resignation of Carol Opalinski.
Newly elected directors join the seven who were elected last year: Ruth Bramhall and Phyllis Henry from Area 1, Danna Burnett and Irene Torres from Area 2, Tim Kezele and Don Swensen from Area 3, and Marcia Harris from Area 4.
This past summer, the water quality in Vaughn Bay declined to the point that measures to improve and protect it are necessary.
For decades, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has tested the water in the bays suitable for shellfish harvesting every other month. The test is for fecal coliform, the bacteria that live in the intestines of warm-blooded mammals including humans. In Vaughn Bay, an increase in coliform levels has been seen over the last two and a half years.
This summer, those test results led to a downgrade in the water quality from “approved”to “conditional”in a significant portion of Vaughn Bay. This means that shellfish cannot be harvested if more than a half-inch of rain has fallen in 24 hours.
When a downgrade occurs, state law requires formation of a shellfish protection district within 180 days. For Vaughn Bay, that deadline is Feb. 1, 2016. Formation of a shellfish protection district requires an ordinance to be approved by the Pierce County Council. It also requires creating a closure response plan (CRP).
There are already three such districts on the Key Peninsula —Burley Lagoon, Rocky Bay and Filucy Bay. Once a district forms, it is permanent, even if the poor water conditions are corrected. The boundaries of the districts are determined by the topography —to include all land that drains into the affected bay.
In the case of Vaughn Bay, 3,583 acres will lie within the district. Parcels within a shellfish protection district are not regulated differently from other parcels and owners do not pay additional fees.
The Pierce County Shellfish Partners Strategic Plan will provide framework for creating the CRP. The plan will consider the most likely sources of pollution and then recommend actions to prevent, identify and correct those sources. The most likely sources are failing septic systems, livestock and pets.
Barbara Ann Smolko, from Pierce County Surface Water Management, said that the approaches to improving the water quality include onsite sewage systems operation and maintenance, education, incentives, Watershed Council participation, technical assistance, communication, inspection and monitoring.
“Community members are needed to provide advice on what is most likely to be successful in the Vaughn area and what resources are needed to help residents make improvements,”she said.
Postcards were sent to residents of the affected area to let them know about the downgrade and need for action. Smolko has already met with a group of residents to decide how to prioritize recommended actions and figure out which recommendations should be implemented first. She welcomes more participation.
Interested in participating or finding out more?
“The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, the Pierce Conservation District and Pierce County Surface Water Management will be the primary implementers of the closure response associated with creating the district and to the many residents who have attended meetings and helped put together the plan,”she said.
Technical advice as well as financial assistance is available to help qualified property owners with failing septic systems. Technical advice is available to evaluate stormwater solutions and livestock management.
Elected officials representing the Key Peninsula came to the November Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) meeting to talk about what they have been doing and to hear from residents.
Pierce County Councilman Derek Young and state Reps. Michelle Caldier and Jesse Young attended. Sen. Jan Angel was at a conference but sent a staff member who commented that she was present to listen to residents, but she did not have a report.
The three said they have met together to help coordinate funding priorities and strategies between the state and the county. They each spoke of the projects they have supported that benefit the region.
Rep. Young, who serves on the Transportation Committee, discussed the importance of the 302 corridor in the economic development of the region and said it should be a top priority. Chuck West, speaking for the KPC, endorsed that view and said that for the Key Peninsula, just completing the 302 long-term study was critical.
Rep. Young also spoke about energy policy. He said that Washington is lucky to have access to clean and cheap energy. The Bonneville Power Administration supplies most of the energy for Peninsula Light, but he noted that others, like California, would like to purchase that energy. He wants to assure that the state has a diverse energy portfolio.
West, again speaking for the KPC, said that mental health services were a local concern. Caldier, who serves on the Healthcare and Wellness Committee, spoke at length about her own family’s experience in dealing with mental-health issues and the interface with the criminal justice system.
Councilman Young discussed mental-health funding. First, he noted that Congress may soon pass a mental-health bill. He noted that Washington state has the lowest bed-per-capital rate for mental health in the nation. Pierce County is the only urban county in the state that has not passed a sales tax to help pay for mental health services. He worked to get a countywide mental-health analysis preformed and the results will be available in March.
It is likely that the study will recommend increased resources. To get tax funding approved by the county council will require a 5-2 vote. Young thinks it will be possible to get that approval but that the council will need to hear from the voters. For that reason, he will call for an advisory vote for a sales tax to pay for mental health services. With voter approval, he thinks the council will move forward.
Councilman Young also discussed funding of projects affecting the Key Peninsula. A total of $100,000 was allocated to parks —distributed to the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula areas. That funding included $30,000 for Key Peninsula Civic Center repairs. The Red Barn has received $2,000 from the Family Resources Center. Young said he understands that as the Red Barn serves more teens, the organization must depend less on volunteers and begin to hire staff. He hopes to help with grant applications.
He addressed concerns about property crime, which he said is at the highest rate in the state. Noting that “20 percent of the perpetrators commit 80 percent of the crime,”he supported formation of the Property Crime Unit that will focus on data-driven law enforcement.
At a countywide level, the health department desperately needs a new building, according to Young, who would support a bond to pay for it.
He also recognizes a growing disparity between rural and urban access to technology. Education and business depend on fast and dependable internet access. To that end, he is working on recommendations for countywide broadband policies.
The audience then asked questions.
One member was concerned about the number of pot shops on the Key Peninsula. County Councilman Young said that he and others are working to bring regulation to the legal market and to get rid of the black market. The council just created a fund to enforce the laws.
The state representatives were asked about school funding. Rep. Young said that there is no plan for an additional special session. Caldier, who serves on the Education Committee, talked at length about her own personal interaction and frustrations with school repairs at her daughter’s school. She also said that a bipartisan group of eight (four from the Senate, four from the House and equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans) will be working on the response to the Supreme Court’s call for adequate school funding.
All seven candidates running for Peninsula School Board recently gathered at Goodman Middle School to meet with voters. About 40 people came to hear the candidates at an event sponsored by the parent groups of Goodman and Kopachuck middle schools.
It’s an important election –– four of five positions will be determined, and this board will be responsible for the upcoming levy as well as hiring a new superintendent. Superintendent Chuck Cuzetto announced that he will step down at the end of this school year.
The current levy –– which funds more than 20 percent of the maintenance and operations budget –– will be up for renewal in 2016. And after failed levies for additional construction in 2011, 2012 and 2013, all of the candidates stressed the importance of building trust with the voters.
Each board director is elected to a four-year term. Voters cast votes for all directors, but each director represents a specific district –– this means that directors are responsible for all students but that they also should be aware of needs within their own individual regions. There are five districts. District 5 will be up for reelection in two years. The District 2 position has two years left of an unexpired term.
Running for office are:
•District 1, Marcia Harris and Matthew Wilkinson (incumbent). District 1 covers most of the Key Peninsula.
•District 2, Deborah Krishnadasan, unopposed. District 2 covers the northernmost Key Peninsula and Canterwood.
•District 3, Geralyn (Lyn) McClendon and Rand Wilhelmsen (incumbent) District 3 covers Rosedale and Maplewood.
•District 4, Leslie Harbaugh and Garth Jackson. District 4 covers the Wollochet area.
The candidates gave introductory remarks, then answered questions that had been collected by the parent groups. There was time for a few questions from the audience, and then closing comments.
They were asked what the greatest capital needs of the district are. All agreed that basic maintenance, some deferred due to the economic downturn, is critical. Most also noted that planning for growth will be necessary.
When asked what they might do to build trust, Wilkinson and Wilhelmsen, both incumbents, noted that they had reached out to Citizens for Responsible Spending, the group that has opposed levies in the past.
Harris noted her past successful experience using a “listening first”strategy with small focus groups. Jackson said he thought that the district should consider doing a more thorough review of all programs. Harbaugh and Harris both noted how important it is to reach out to the entire community, including those without children. Krishnadasan and McClendon stressed clear, concise and simple communication.
The next question was about attracting and retaining staff. All agreed that compensation and school environment were critical. Wilkinson added that there needed to be clear career pathways ––to allow teachers to become department heads or administrators. Harris agreed, adding that the work of all staff must be valued, collaboration encouraged, and time for professional development provided.
When asked about their view of the role of the board and that of the superintendent all agreed: the board sets vision and policy and the superintendent implements. Harris added that the board must also advocate for what is best for the district.
How to build trust? Harris, Krishandasan, Harbaugh stressed engagement and visibility within the community. They discussed both listening and telling the successful stories of the district, reaching out to those with children, those without children, and businesses.
McClendon vowed to be available and to communicate. Wilkinson stressed answering any and all questions, noting that he always responds to emails. Wilhelmsen said, “We have to do what we say we are going to do. We must be accountable for results and make the public aware of what we accomplish.”Jackson noted that all ideas must be so well thought out that they sell themselves.
Finally, the candidates were asked what unique qualities they bring to the board.
Wilkinson noted his longtime commitment as a volunteer and his day to day work in information technology, making networks work better.
Harris described her deep and broad-based background in education, from classroom to human resources to finance.
Krishnadasan described her work in mergers at Microsoft, the communication skills required, and her enthusiasm.
McClendon noted her nursing background and the emphasis on prevention rather than reaction.
Wilhelmsen stressed his background in banking and finance as well as a teaching certificate, leading to an understanding in classroom instruction.
Jackson emphasized his early background as an engineer and working collaboratively in business, combined with his 12-year career as a teacher and extensive volunteer activities with youth.
Harbaugh noted that she has been a volunteer in the Peninsula Schools for the past 13 years. “This district is my wheelhouse,”she said.
Information is available in the Pierce County Voter’s Pamphlet or at co.pierce.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/38362.
In Key Peninsula’s rural and unincorporated setting, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department provides the community with crime-protection and prevention services.
Sgt. Brian Ward, who is one of two sergeants heading the Peninsula Detachment, recently reviewed the basics of how the department works and the resources available for the Key Peninsula. Ward has 27 years with the sheriff’s department; he worked the Peninsula Detachment as a patrol deputy (1994-2001) and has served as sergeant here since 2007.
The sheriff’s department is responsible for unincorporated Pierce County and has three detachments (Peninsula, Mountain and Foothills), all overseen by Lt. Larry Minturn.
Peninsula Detachment has two districts: District 14 (unincorporated Gig Harbor and Fox Island) and District 15 (Key Peninsula). Two sergeants are responsible for the Peninsula Detachment, and 17 patrol deputies cover both districts.
With three 10-hour shifts, there is always one deputy on duty in each district. Deputies provide backup for each other if needed and this can sometimes cause a delay in responding to local calls.
Community policing is often discussed in urban settings —officers get to know a community and develop relationships beyond simply law enforcement. When asked how that pertains to the Key Peninsula, Ward noted, “In a rural setting, there can be a real advantage —because we have a small number of officers, if there are problems, residents are seeing the same people.
“And the officers on the Key Peninsula tend to be more senior,”he said. “They like working here and tend to take more time when dealing with complaints. The consistency is usually good, though it can be a problem if the resident and the officer don’t have a good interaction.”
Ward and Minturn attend the monthly Citizens Against Crime meetings whenever possible, and along with deputies, they also try to attend community events including National Night Out.
Since the economic downturn in 2008, there have been some significant losses in staffing. Ward noted that the department has lost several positions in the Peninsula Detachment. The first was a noncommissioned position, the community support officer. That person did community outreach and education and helped groups like Citizens Against Crime and neighborhood block watches organize.
Active patrol positions were also eliminated. The position of neighborhood patrol deputy ended about five years ago. That deputy was called in for non-911 types of calls such as neighborhood disputes. In addition, the detachment lost a traffic officer who was responsible for dealing with congestion, speeding and accidents.
Minturn said that all Pierce County detachments lost positions, and the problem with staffing is compounded by the difficulty in filling vacancies. The recruiting and training process is slow. Currently the Peninsula detachment has one open position that he hopes to fill by the beginning of 2016. Shifts are filled through overtime in the meantime.
When asked about trends on the Key Peninsula, Ward noted that most crimes are related to property, and that the root cause is probably drug activity —thefts to pay for illicit drug use. A special investigative unit has helped to decrease the number of methamphetamine labs but he said the processing of marijuana has become more of an issue recently.
Minturn concurred, adding that heroin has become a major problem now that methamphetamine use and manufacture has declined.
He said that compared to the other Pierce County detachments, Peninsula has a few challenges. First, the physical isolation caused by both bridges does have an impact. The large waterfront means that there are more boat-related property crimes.
And, because of the proximity to both Mason and Kitsap counties, he describes the problem of “border hopping”in which criminals living in one county go to another to perpetrate their crimes. It means the departments from all three counties need to work closely together.
Both Minturn and Ward agreed that there are “hot spots”on the Key. Crimes tend to be more concentrated in areas where there is higher population density, more inexpensive housing and a younger population
A single murder occurred and was solved last year. One murder this year was uncovered in July. Investigation of an abandoned car led to discovery of the body of Lynn Carver, 69, in her home. An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be multiple stab wounds. The case is still under investigation.
Ward shared information comparing the manpower available to cover the Peninsula District compared to that for the Gig Harbor Police Department —and the numbers are telling. The Peninsula District has one deputy per 3,667 people, while Gig Harbor has one officer per 850 (see sidebar at keypennews.com).
Although this difference between rural and more urban staffing is not unusual, there are a few takeaway points, which Minturn endorsed. First, if citizens feel that they need more law enforcement and prevention, they need to advocate for more funding. Second, communities partnering with the sheriff may help in these times of fewer resources. And groups like Citizens Against Crime serve as a valuable resource in that partnership.
Ward reported the following statistics for Key Peninsula in August: seven felony arrests, 25 traffic accidents, 15 false alarms and 36 traffic stops (speeding, reckless driving). Statistics for a full 12 months are available on the department’s website.
Minturn had this advice for those wanting to know what to do: “First, if there is an emergency or a crime in progress, call 911. To report incidents no longer in progress, call (253) 798-4721. If you want to report suspicious drug activity, the number is (253) 798-7537. Good descriptions, license plate numbers and pictures are all very helpful. The online system is especially helpful. We read and heed.”
All phone numbers and web-based contacts are listed on the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department website at co.pierce.wa.us (follow the Safety & Judicial navigation menu).
Living in a rural community can be a blessing —peace and quiet, natural beauty. But it can also present some challenges, and dealing with crime in a relatively isolated setting is one of them.
The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is the primary resource for Key Peninsula residents, but with limited resources and a large physical area to cover, Citizens Against Crime (CAC) has been a real help for PCSD for more than 35 years.
“We are the eyes and ears for the Pierce County sheriff,”said Cindy Worden, CAC president. “Sheriff Paul Pastor sees our value and talks about Citizens Against Crime when he speaks in the community. I am proud of that.”
Sergeant Brian Ward from the PCSD Peninsula Detachment confirmed Worden’s statement.
“CAC is an asset. It is good for citizens to organize and to help identify trends that may not always show in reports,”he said.
Local resident Hugh McMillan founded CAC in 1988 following vandalism at the Peninsula School District school bus depot in Purdy and the Key Peninsula Middle School. McMillan and Rhys Wood planned to file a class-action lawsuit against the parents of the vandals, and word of this led to an interview by KOMO television news.
After that interview, McMillan said, “the phone rang off the hook with people asking what they could do to help. Within a few weeks, over one hundred people attended a community meeting and CAC was born, thanks to the action of many individuals.”
The sheriff’s department trained volunteers with a 10-hour program.
In 1995 a plan was formulated to have a mobile patrol staffed by CAC volunteers. Gig Harbor car dealers offered to loan cars, but insurance problems left them with the alternative plan, using magnetic signs with the CAC logo mounted on private vehicles.
Sheriff Pastor, then the operations officer, was instrumental in wading through the red tape to make the program happen, according to McMillan. A Seattle Times article in 1998 reported that that there were 40 volunteers serving as patrols at that time.
According to Worden, membership has varied over the years. There are currently about 40 members and five teams on car patrol. They always work in pairs, with one person driving and the other taking notes.
Volunteers are trained in the process of observing and understanding what 911 operators will want during a call. The patrols are timed randomly, with volunteers usually covering areas near where they live.
CAC recently had its 501(c)3 status reinstated. With the ability to raise funds, CAC hopes to grow again. The group plans to revise its website, update its Facebook page, purchase more magnet signs for the patrol cars and reimburse patrols for gas and mileage. In addition, members encourage neighborhoods to form block-watch groups —CAC could provide training.
“CAC does a phenomenal job. I am impressed by their organization and efficiency. I wish we could replicate it in the other regions,”said PCSD Lt. Larry Minturn.
New members are welcome. Applicants undergo a background check and may have an “active”or “secure”status depending on the results. Worden encourages all KP residents to consider joining —from the young to the old.
Committees include bylaws (an ad-hoc committee), elections, membership, social media and patrol.
The Key Peninsula Community Council (KPC) has been awarded a $150,000 grant by the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation.
“The purpose of the grant is to build a first-class, healthy-community model — one that may inspire and benefit service organizations throughout the Kitsap Peninsula region,” said Danna Webster, co-president of KPC.
About a year ago, the Milgard Family Foundation convened a group of Key Peninsula human-services leaders with a desire to make a significant local investment that would lead to cooperative and sustainable community improvement. They wanted to focus on increasing the quality of life for families in need.
The group included leaders from Boys and Girls Club, CHI Franciscan, Children’s Home Society, Communities in Schools, Key Peninsula Community Services, Red Barn, KP School Bus Connects and The Mustard Seed Project. They met monthly to discuss the optimal way to make a lasting, positive impact, according to organizers.
The group decided establish an infrastructure rather than funding ongoing or new services.
“Those at the meetings wanted to have a better way to allow them to collaborate, strategize and coordinate so that they can serve their communities without redundancy or unnecessary overlap,” Webster said.
One model the group explored was that of the Rainier Hills Wellness Foundation in Enumclaw (rfwellnessfoundation.org), which has operating for 25 years.
Because KPC is not a service provider and represents the whole community, it was selected as the supervisory backbone for the next steps, including the grant application to the Milgard Family Foundation.
According to the KPC application, if the incomes of those living on the 70 miles of waterfront are not included, the Key Peninsula community is the poorest in Pierce County. More than 30 percent of the population is 55 and older. The poverty level of children in the schools on the Key Peninsula is double that of Gig Harbor schools.
The grant will provide salary and basic support for a community partnership director as well as funding for some direct services. It is for one year, with the possibility of renewal.
The first-year work plan includes:
Building community leadership and engagement
Increasing direct services with a focus on transportation, hunger, and health and wellness
Assessing and report community assets, needs and gaps
Creating a multiyear community action plan.
The next step will be to hire the director. A job description is available on the KPC website at kpcouncil.com.
Expectations are high, Webster said.
“One of my favorite quotes is from Moms Mabley: ‘If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got,’” she said. “The healthy-community model is an opportunity to improve upon the good work that our service agencies have been doing and increase the success of their programs.”