For the moment, let’s forget everything happening in Washington, D.C. An endless stream of breaking news alerts, notifications, dings, beeps and tweets commanding all attention at all hours. Please, take a refreshing breath and enjoy your community through your local independent nonprofit newspaper. The other big news of the day will still be there, ad nauseam.

When I began reporting for Key Peninsula News, I often pitched story ideas about national issues. My wise editor patiently told me, repeatedly, the focus of KP News is local. “But these are big issues that ultimately affect all of us,” I whined. “How is this not local?”

Today, I get it. The value of award-winning local journalism and the essential role it plays in creating and sustaining a healthy community is incalculable.

Our staff is deeply engaged in the community with ears well-tuned for stories. We have plenty to keep us reporting and writing about our far-flung community without a single incorporated town in it, despite the confounding Gig Harbor addresses on this side of the Purdy Spit.

The American ideals I grew up believing upheld opportunity for all and taught us that grassroots dreaming begins at home, taking shape at ground level in small communities. It began at churches, cooperatives and farm councils, expanding into business associations, union halls, fraternal organizations and social clubs, homeowner associations, preschool co-ops and the local PTAs. From here the inspiration grew to serve on advisory boards and to run as candidates for school and park district and fire commissioner boards to lead the community into an unknown future.

The directors and commissioners we elect to these nonpartisan positions will oversee arguably the largest budgets in our community. The leaders we choose directly impact the future of our schools, the nature of our parks and public spaces, and choices that effect the resources necessary to ensure delivery of critical life and death emergency response.

There was a full house Oct. 8 at the 2019 Key Peninsula Candidates Forum, hosted by the Key Peninsula Civic Center Association and sponsored by the KP Community Council, the KP Business Association and yours truly, KP News. The forum was broadcast live by KGHP-FM radio station’s “The Walrus,” Spencer Abersold.

The moderator for the evening, Gina Cabbidu, program manager of the KP Family Resource Center, Children’s Home Society of Washington, read questions submitted by the audience to the candidates. An official timekeeper armed with warning bells gave all candidates equal time to respond.

The pace was brisk as the candidates, most of whom have delivered numerous stump speeches over the last few months, were articulate and on point.

In the race to lead Key Pen Parks, two newcomer candidates, Bruce Cook and Linda Weeks, are running for Commissioner Position No. 1.

The race for Key Pen Parks Commissioner Position No. 3 is interesting in that challenger Mark Michel, who has served multiple terms on the park commission in Position No. 1 and currently serves as board president, intentionally chose to run a campaign against the seated incumbent for Position No. 3, John Pat Kelly.

There are three seats to fill in the races for the Peninsula School District board of directors.

Two Key Peninsula candidates face off in District No. 1 where Claudia (Sami) Jensen takes on Chuck West to represent the KP on the school board. Jensen is married to current Key Pen Parks Commissioner Shawn Jensen, who also serves as a fire commissioner in KP Fire District 16.

PSD incumbent Director, Lori Glover, in District No. 3 is uncontested. 

Incumbent Leslie Harbaugh is defending her seat as PSD Director in District No. 4 against challenger Natalie Wimberley.

Port of Tacoma Commissioner Position No. 3 is a contest between Frank Boykin of University Place and Deanna Keller of Gig Harbor.

Port Commissioner Position No. 5 is a choice between Kristin Ang of Gig Harbor and Dave Bryant, who lives in Lake Tapps.

The KP Fire District No. 16 commissioner race is uncontested, with Frank Grubaugh running for reelection.

The audience was attentive and respectful. KPCCA President Tim Kezele said afterward, “Everything went really well. Gina was like a breath of fresh air and did a great job as moderator.”

Many newspapers statewide have stopped sponsoring candidate forums because the events are so poorly attended. And yet all the candidates for port commissioner stumping in towns and communities countywide sat smiling and nodding in unison before a full house in Vaughn as candidate Bryant said:

“Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula, this area in the 26th legislative district, you have more events for campaigns — for bringing the candidates out to be exposed to voters — than anywhere else in the county,” adding that other scheduled events often canceled at the last minute following a lack of response. To the KP crowd assembled that night Bryant said, “You are doing the right thing and frankly it gives you far more effect than your population out here.”

Kristin Ang agreed, telling KP News she was impressed by the audience. “Pierce County voters have some of the lowest voter turnouts in the state, but civic engagement and voter turnout is high — west of the Tacoma Narrows bridge.”

Key Peninsula News isn’t here to tell you how to vote, but we encourage you to postmark or drop off your ballot by 8 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 5. You don’t even need postage.

The polarization of political ideology delivers something uniquely destructive to our national psyche. It promotes the fear that fosters intolerance. It limits our creativity and stifles the growth of our ideas.

But our community is strengthened by the power of our collective engagement in it.

Key Peninsula News does not endorse candidates. We published profiles in summer, written by KP News staff reporters, on each of the candidates for park commissioner positions and school board directors in every contested race. Enter the name of the candidate in the search bar to read about each candidate and access previous articles and published letters at our website, keypennews.org.

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