Councilman Balcomb-Bartok resigns, accepts job in Renton

Friday Harbor Town Councilman Kelley Balcomb-Bartok announced Friday he is resigning effective June 6 to move to Renton, where he will work as communication specialist in the Renton mayor's office.

Balcomb-Bartok begins his new job June 16. It was not immediately known whether the Town Council will appoint someone to the vacancy or will place it on the August or November ballot.

"Kelley was chosen over 78 other applicants for the communication position," said Preeti Shridhar, communications director for the City of Renton. "It was one of the largest pool of applicants the city has ever had. Kelley will be a wonderful asset to our communications team."

Balcomb-Bartok plans to visit Renton City Hall June 9 to meet the mayor, City Council members and city staff. Balcomb-Bartok plans to move to Renton immediately, while his family will follow at the end of summer when his wife's wedding cake commitments are fulfilled.

"I'm really excited about this," Balcomb-Bartok said in a released statement. "I love the island and the community here, and I will miss working on behalf of the citizens of Friday Harbor as a council member, but this is a wonderful opportunity for my family and me. The island continues to get harder and harder for young families to make ends meet, and with things not working out the way I'd hoped at my current job, my wife and I decided to broaden our horizons."

Balcomb-Bartok, 45, has been a full-time resident of San Juan Island since 1987 and is mostly known for his work on behalf of the region's killer whales. He is on the staff of the Center for Whale Research, founded and directed by his father, Ken Balcomb.

In his career, he has been on the staff of The Whale Museum, founded a non-profit devoted to winning the release of Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium, served as an adviser on the "Free Willy" movie, and worked as a professional photographer and also as a graphic artist and reporter for The Journal.

Balcomb-Bartok was an original appointee to the county Marine Resources Committee. He ran for County Commission in 2000 and was appointed to the Town Council in 2006 to fill a vacancy caused when Howie Rosenfeld was elected to the County Council. Balcomb-Bartok was unopposed for election to a full term in 2007.

"Then this position became available," he said. "My wife and I spent a lot of time considering what this would mean if I got the job, particularly moving off the island I've lived on for more than 20 years. We basically put it in God's hands and asked Him to provide for us. I'm thrilled with the results and I truly look at this as a blessing for my family."

In his letter of resignation, dated May 30 and addressed to Mayor David Jones, Town Administrator King Fitch and the Town Council, Balcomb-Bartok wrote, "I very much am going to miss working with the council on behalf of the fine people of Friday Harbor, but I am excited for the possibilities this opportunity will bring my family … You are a fine group of people and it has been an honor to serve beside you on behalf of the citizens of Friday Harbor."

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