Greeting of Thanks from Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder

Commissioner Rob Gelder March 2023
Commissioner Rob Gelder stepped down from his elected position as Kitsap County Commissioner representing North Kitsap. Following is a statement he released on his last day in office.

My father was born this day in 1937. He was a role model for me as a public servant: career law enforcement, school board director, and town councilman. It’s somewhat symbolic for me to have today be my final day in office as Kitsap County Commissioner.

From a young age, I looked for a community in which I could put down roots, get involved and ultimately serve.

I was living in Seattle at the time, but remember driving through Poulsbo with my parents and saying to them that I could see myself living here one day, only to a couple of years later be offered a job and buy my first home in Kitsap County.

I quickly became grounded and invested in Kitsap as my new home.

In 2007, there was a vacancy created for county commissioner when Chris Endresen stepped down. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but I put my name in the hat for consideration. No one knew me. I wasn’t politically connected. I didn’t get the appointment, but I heeded the best advice I received during the process – that being “to get involved and stay involved.”

I volunteered on Steve Bauer’s campaign, got involved in the party and served on the county’s budget committee for three years until being appointed myself to the commissioner seat after Commissioner Bauer resigned. As a result, I have been elected four times to serve our community, including back-to-back elections in 2011 and 2012.

I didn’t come to this role with a personal agenda or an axe to grind. I didn’t come to this role with an ego that required stroking. I came to the role with a commitment to community, desire to learn, pragmatism and common sense, and a drive to facilitate the realization of the community’s hopes and dreams.

In looking back over the past 12 years, I know I am blessed by the people I’ve worked with, met along the way, and the diverse communities of Kitsap County. There is a unique culture of collaboration between the various jurisdictions, elected officials, and staff. That is something to be celebrated and promoted.

While it is difficult to summarize my tenure in certain accomplishments, I am proud of many things:
The role that I and the county played in making the Kingston Village Green park, community center and senior housing project a reality.
Partnering with Coffee Oasis to expand into the Kingston community.
The creation of a Forest Stewardship policy that governs the restorative thinning work throughout the Kitsap County Parks system to restore natural forests from tree farms.
The addition of over 4,000 acres of public open space for community enjoyment now and in generations to come.
Strong relationships with both the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribes.
Partnering with the Suquamish Tribe to create the Port Madison Dialogues.
Moving the long-term solutions for addressing Kingston ferry traffic impacts forward in partnership with our state legislators, the Port of Kingston, Kitsap Transit and community members.
The way county staff pivoted during the COVID pandemic during what was an everchanging environment.
We have a county that is financially solid, but that in no way diminishes the structural inadequacies of how local government is funded and the need for resources to maintain or expand the levels of service provided. In other words, if we as a community want more, we must have the conversations and commitment to find resources locally. We cannot expect solutions to materialize from outside the county or apart from the tools at our disposal.

The hardest part of stepping away from the role is knowing that there are things yet to come to fruition. There is a tremendous opportunity for what the Ridgetop Department of Natural Resources property can become. There is the connectivity and economic vitality that the Sound-to-Olympics trail can bring. There is the receipt of additional open space in Eglon through a Trust Land Transfer that can not only expand open space preservation, but also resiliency for the north end of the county. There is the Active Traffic Management system for ferry riders in Kingston and the Highway 104 realignment and remote holding lot that can mean the elimination of crippling ferry gridlock in downtown Kingston.

Over the past several years, there has been an even greater fractionalization of communities – a polarization of opinions – a “my way is the right way” mentality – a lessening of the appreciation for the diversity that can truly enrich our everyday lives. We can stop that trend locally: by meeting people where they’re at, truly listening and understanding the needs and concerns they have. Ultimately, we can maintain and strengthen civility one interaction at a time.

I’m confident the county will continue to have excellent leadership. That relations with the Tribes will continue to strengthen. That partnerships with Kitsap’s cities will continue to be built on trust and open communication. That together we will continue to be a voice for our communities throughout the region and state.

Kitsap County is blessed to have a great team of elected officials and appointed leadership. They, along with their dedicated staff, represent the foundation upon which continuity is built.

That is the hardest aspect of serving as County Commissioner to leave behind. The daily gift of working with some extraordinary people. The members of my county family.

I’ve joked over the years that serving as commissioner isn’t a job, but a lifestyle. It can be an all-consuming role, but one that is enhanced and enriched by the people with whom one serves.

The voters of Kitsap have bestowed upon me a tremendous honor. The honor to be a servant leader at a most meaningful level of government.Thank you for that honor. I hope that I’ve served our communities well and wish us all much health, happiness and a future filled with hope and promise.

Thank you.