Three candidates are vying for the Position 1 seat of the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District.
Kurt Grimmer, Matthew Finn and Judy Pagni are looking to replace Jon Ortgiesen, who is stepping down.
Grimmer made his election pitch during Thursday’s public affairs forum, a weekly event sponsored by the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce at Cottesmore of Life Care. Finn and Pagni did not attend but were reached in separate interviews.
Grimmer, a member and volunteer for the Peninsula Athletic Association, praised the community and spoke with optimism about the future of the parks.
“We have a great community,” he said. “We’re in a position to really establish the premiere parks and recreation district, second to none in the state of Washington.”
Grimmer detailed his involvement with youth sports in the area.
“I’ve been on every soccer field in this district, every park, every gym,” he said. “I’ve lined over 1,000 soccer fields in last 20 years. We just completed a high school basketball league also. Even the referees had fun. This is why I do this.”
Pagni said her experience with finances would translate to the job.
“With 10 years experience in the financial industry, I can help make sure PenMet is prudently using taxes and maximizing every dollar to keep the burden to taxpayers at a minimum,” she said.
Pagni also said she would bring valuable diversity to the board.
“We should have a diversity of voices to accurately represent our community,” she said. “There’s never been a woman on the board, and as someone who uses these parks with my two kids almost daily, I think the whole community would benefit from having that voice on the board.”
Finn, owner of Sign Express, expressed his desire to curb unnecessary spending.
“I’m extremely conservative financially,” he said. “I feel like we need fiscal conservatism. Our budget is out of hand, our government is too big. It seems like people just want to keep it going.”
Finn believes his experience as a business owner has adequately prepared him for the job.
“The job is primarily voting on budgets and allocating money,” he said. “I do that every day. Also, I’ve worked in the parks before — in the state parks.”
Grimmer said he’s pleased with the job the current administration has done with acquiring and maintaining park property, but he would like to see improved water access and launching points.
“The doors are wide open,” he said. “This is a young district. It’s been able to acquire some really nice parks. We’re surrounded on three sides by water. Water access is huge, and we have very few deep-water launches. I think we could do some great things that would be low-cost and easy to organize.”
Pagni said she also thinks the current team has been effective, but she believes she can make the board even stronger.
“I think they’ve done a great job in less than 10 years of being around,” she said. “I just think my voice would make it stronger; for example, they built Homestead Park without swings, and moms cried foul, as every mother knows kids want swings. Adding them after the fact cost over $80,000 when, if they had been installed with the initial construction, costs would have been significantly lower.”
Grimmer said cooperation with other counties and areas is vital.
“I really believe strongly in partnerships — obviously, there’s always a financial consideration, though. We use the city parks. A partnership with Key Peninsula and Kitsap County would be beneficial. We’re all neighbors.”
“You don’t just stop at a county or city line just ’cause you don’t live in the district,” Pagni said. “PenMet gave a few thousand to keep open Horseshoe Lake Park, and hundreds of families from Pierce and Kitsap can now use it.”
Finn is strongly opposed to partnering with other counties.
“Competition is the name of the game,” he said. “Competition creates efficiency. Interdependency makes us slower and not able to get things done locally. The more centralized government gets, the worse it becomes.”
If elected, Grimmer said he wants to organize a special community event.
“In the parking lot in Uptown, I’d like to have the first annual, mixed doubles pickleball tournament,” he said. “Pickleball is one of the fastest growing recreational activities. Why not? It’s a fun game for all ages. Recreation is everything from A to Z — there’s a whole multitude of things we can do, and a lot of them can be done at a very low cost. I’m excited about it.”Reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.