Monday, May 21, 2012

The Commissioner Decision...

As you probably know, I have filed to run for the District 2, Kitsap County Commissioner position. To be honest, it was a decision that was as much of a surprise to me, as it may have been to many of you. I’d stated publicly, numerous times, that after losing re-election as Port Orchard’s Mayor by five votes, after a very nasty campaign, that I didn’t particularly want to re-live the election experience.

Losing that election was extremely hard on our family, and for reasons I won’t go into, particularly difficult for my wife, who endured months of harassing phone calls from blocked numbers. After the election, it also became very difficult for some local business people who were very supportive — and one in particular, a close friend of ours — whose business took a hard hit, suffering the brunt of a word-of-mouth boycott by some of my opponent’s supporters. Needless to say, I felt responsible, and wasn’t anxious to put my family, friends, or supporters — not to mention my own sense of self — through any of that pain again. However, I’m pleased to report that our friend’s business is steadily recovering.

So what changed my mind?

After leaving office, I took a sabbatical to my favorite place on the planet, the Florida Keys — a magical place for me where I’m totally at peace with myself. I did some fishing, reading, relaxed in the sun, and did a lot of thinking about my future while watching glorious sunsets. I made a number of decisions, including one involving my role as editor of the Business Journal. I had the option of returning to work there, and did for awhile, creating new digital strategies, which are now in the process of being implemented, in reaction to our industry’s paradigm shift to electronic news delivery.

But I’m a person who thrives on, and does my best work, conquering new challenges. And after 33 years, while this economic environment is certainly challenging, it’s time for me to move on. When Tim Kelly became available, I knew he was the right person, at the right time, to step into the editorial shoes I’ve filled for the past 24 years, and his fresh perspective would help elevate the Business Journal to the next level of excellence.

I truly enjoyed being Mayor of Port Orchard — and I worked hard at it - 50 to 60 hours a week. In the Strong Mayor form of government, the Mayor is basically the City Manager, running the City’s day-to-day business operations. The Mayor reports to the Council, and is essentially the CEO of what is, in Port Orchard’s case, a $30+ million municipal corporation.

When I took office, Port Orchard was dipping into reserves to make payroll. Its comprehensive plan was four years out of compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act, there were over 500 unprocessed permits, and numerous other major challenges.

I’m very proud of what was accomplished in four years. I didn’t do it all myself, and thank a dedicated staff of very resourceful individuals, and a supportive City Council that trusted and believed in me. When I left office, Port Orchard was one of the few cities in our state steadily building reserves. Together, we proved that you can run government like a business if you actually mean to, and have the political will, knowledge and experience to do so.

Relying on expertise learned in Port Orchard, I began searching for a City Manager job, and with my news media credentials, public information officer positions. I’ve been a finalist for several of both, as well as Executive Director positions. As of this writing, several potential jobs — and one private sector CEO position — are still pending.

However, about two months ago, I began getting calls — one or two a week at first — along with private messages on Facebook, many from people I’d never even met, urging me to run for Commissioner. I was polite, but firm with all of them, saying that while I sincerely appreciated their support and confidence in me, that I really wasn’t interested. As the filing deadline got closer, the frequency of the calls increased. The week of filing, without exaggerating, I received over 150 calls — from Democrats and Republicans alike — including past and present elected officials. Frankly, I was stunned, but remained firm.

But it was two last-minute calls from Democratic electeds — one former and one current — as well as a surprisingly frank conversation with my wife that finally convinced me. She said, “You’re a person who lives to make a difference. It drives you, and it’s who and what you are at your core. You know that. You’re smart, pragmatic, not afraid to make hard decisions, and politically astute. You already know how all the boards you’ll serve on work, what their issues are, and the people who serve on them, so there’s no learning curve. You took on a huge mess in Port Orchard with great results. You can do it again.”

I was still uncertain until she asked, “Why would you want to leave here to go run some city somewhere else, or someone’s company, when you’re needed here in Kitsap County? Why wouldn’t you put your energy and abilities to work making a difference where you live?

I honestly made a final decision about 2:45 p.m. on the last day of filing.

So now that I’m in, I’m asking for your support and your vote. I pledge to work as hard as I did in Port Orchard, and to give you my best effort every single day. I believe I can make a difference for Kitsap County. I hope you do too.

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