Lent, 71, had felt a few years ago that the 2013
election would be her last. But as she hits the midpoint of her
term, she’s realized there’s just too many projects left to pursue.
Several downtown development projects, the
passenger-only ferry to Seattle, establishment of a Bus Rapid
Transit system and bringing business to Puget Sound Industrial
Center-Bremerton are a few of her top goals.
“I have a to-do list that will take me another term
of office to complete,” said Lent, who was also a Kitsap County
commissioner earlier in the 2000s.
Wheeler, who Tuesday secured a new four year term in
district four while running unopposed, said he’s “definitely
contemplating a run.”
The 56-year-old Navy veteran recently retired from
the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard’s engineering department. He, like
Lent, is heavily involved in the community.
“I’d love the chance to be mayor,” he told me.
Neither will formally declare their campaigns for
some time but knowing the other is likely to run will no doubt
shape these next two years politically in Bremerton. Already, the
two publicly disagreed over whether
Bremerton should exit the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council,
a group of local governments that band together for planning and
grant money. Wheeler was for it; Lent against it.
And who knows? Perhaps there are others who could
join in the race eventually. Last time around, Todd Best filed to
run against Lent on
the last day before filing week closed. In 2017, it appears
there’s already two candidates lined up.
Today marks my 10 year anniversary at the
Kitsap Sun. It’s a milestone that I’ve been thinking
about a lot lately. I’ve witnessed a dramatic transformation
in journalism this past decade. Not all has been positive: the
newsroom staff is half the size it was when I got here, reflecting
an era of massive media consolidation. (That’s
the nice way to put it). But I am also part of a new
era, where the most creative and industrious minds will prevail in
an age where anyone can publish a story.
I wanted to take you back through this decade, for a
trip through the stories that fascinated me most. Many of
these, you will notice, are from my first seven years on the job,
when I was the Sun’s crime and justice reporter. But Bremerton, as
home to the Sun and those I’ve covered, has always played an
1. After 62 years, death comes six hours
Amazing stories that are told on the obituary page
nearly everyday. So I was especially curious when my editor, Kim
Rubenstein, came to me with a rather unique one: A couple whose
obituary ran together, in the same article.
I phoned the family, wondering if they would be
interested in telling their parents’ story. It’s a phone call that
never gets easier, having to call someone coming to terms with
death, but it’s a call I feel is a newspaper’s obligation. In doing
so, I’ve always tried to explain I’d like to give the community a
chance to know the person they were in life, and if not, they were
free to hang up on me. Everyone grieves differently but some people
view the opportunity as cathartic.
In this case, the family was thrilled and invited me
to their home in Kingston.
I learned of a
very special love story — a couple through 62 years of marriage
did everything together. Everything. Even getting the mail.
It’s a story that not only touched me emotionally, but
apparently others as well. Few stories I’ve ever done attracted
broader attention. I got calls, emails and letters from all over
the country, and was even interviewed by the Seattle P-I about
2. The CIA is doing what in Washington
Undercover police officers have their identities
concealed for a reason: they are often conducting sensitive, and
sometimes high risk, investigations that warrant it.
But what about when police chiefs, who use their
government issued vehicles mainly for the purpose of driving to and
from work, start using those undercover license plates?
But nothing could prepare me, months after the
initial story, for a call from Austin Jenkins, NPR reporter in
Olympia, who’d been hearing testimony in the State Legislature
about these license plates and changes to the program.
Later, the DOL would backpedal and say that they had
no authority to release information about those “federal agencies”
that have the licenses. But it was a fascinating discovery, an
amazing story to work on and I am glad
we were able to help bring the program to transparency.
3. The Pentagon’s calling, and they’re not
Ever wonder what it’s like to have The Pentagon angry
with a story you did? Well, let me tell you.
Through a public records request, I got hold of a
Navy document that reported he’d received an honorable
discharge from the Navy — something a former Navy JAG told me was
unheard of following a sex crime conviction.
We ran the story.
The following Monday, The Pentagon called.
“Your story is wrong,” I was told repeatedly. “Are
you going to correct it?”
“How is it wrong?” I asked.
I couldn’t get an answer because those records were
private, I was told.
“So how can I correct it?” I wondered.
Round and round we went, for what felt like an
eternity. Newsroom meetings were held. I freely admit it does not
feel good when the Pentagon is not happy with you.
Eventually, others at The Pentagon and the local base
released information that showed the man had received an “other
than honorable” discharge. To this day, I am uncertain why I
saw reports that contradicted each other.
4. Burglary victim becomes the
Imagine coming home from a trip to find your home has
been burglarized, and yet
you’re the one getting hauled off to jail. That was the
situation Luke Groves faced in 2009. A felon, he’d broken into a
school in Shelton at 18, and now, at 37, police found his wife’s
guns in their Hewitt Avenue home.
Prosecutors, who charged him with felon in possession
of a firearm, had offered him no jail time in exchange for his
guilty plea. But Groves took the case to trial,
was convicted, and could’ve faced years in prison over it.
The case was one that former Kitsap County Prosecutor
Russ Hauge and I had butted heads about. He felt we’d cast the
prosecutor’s office as the bad guy in a case which they could not
just “look the other way” on a weapons charge.
I followed the trial from start to finish, including
Hauge himself handling the sentencing — something I can’t
recall on an other occasion in my seven years covering the court
system here. Hauge told the judge that Groves should ultimately get
credit for time served for the crime, and Groves was released.
The story started with a scanner call for a DOA (dead
on arrival) near the road in Olhava. I inquired with the police
sergeant, who told me that the death was actually a pretty
interesting story — certainly not something I expected to hear. I
headed north, parked, and followed a little trail into the woods
where I found “The Shiloh,” Christensen’s home among Western Red
It was a “meticulously organized world,” I wrote. “A
campsite with finely raked dirt, a sturdy green shed and a tent
filled with bins of scrupulously folded clean laundry and cases of
Steel Reserve beer.”
In the subsequent days, I learned all about his quiet
penned this story. Most satisfying to me was that Christensen’s
family had lost touch with him. Without the story, which thanks to
the Internet made its way across the country, his family would’ve
never found him. He got the dignified burial he deserved.
6. Heroin’s ugly grip on Kitsap, the
I’ve probably put more energy into covering the
opiate epidemic than any other single topic in my decade at the
I’ve received a lot of “jail mail” over the years,
and while there’s usually an interesting story, it is, shall we
say, not always one I would pursue in print.
When the letters started coming from Robert “Doug”
Pierce in 2010, I was skeptical. He was convinced that Kitsap
County had miscalculated his “good time” or time off for good
behavior, and that he was serving too long a sentence from his
current cell, at Coyote Ridge in Connell.
Now I will tell you I am a journalist and not a
mathematician. But the basic gist was that jail officials here were
calculating his good time by simply dividing his time served by
three, rather than tacking on an additional to his overall
sentence. The result was he would serve 35 extra days.
A criminal past can often haunts someone for the rest
of his or her life. That was certainly true for Ed Gonda, a man who
moved his family to Bainbridge Island and had heard it was a “laid
back, forgiving kind of place.”
His crime was a sexual relationship with a
15-year-old girl. He admitted to it, did time for it, paid more
than $10,000 in treatment for it — and had lived a clean life for
15 years, to include starting his own family.
But under Washington state law, he had to register as
a sex offender, though he was not a pedophile. And somehow, after
making friends at a local church and at his daughter’s school, word
“The news traveled fast, and people who they thought
they knew well acted swiftly,”
I wrote. “His daughter could no longer play with friends down
the street, he said. The church pews around them were vacant on
Sundays. They more or less stopped going out anywhere on the
“We’re treated like we’re diseased,” his wife told
It was the start of a
three part series I knew would be controversial, but I felt was
important. We want to protect all people in society, especially
children. But is there ever a point when we’ve gone too far and it
has infringed on the rights of those who have already done their
Let’s face it: Bremerton has a gotten a bad rap over
the years, following the demise in the 1980s of its retail downtown
core. An increasing violent crime rate followed, and in many ways
the reputation was earned.
When I was hired in 2005, the city had the highest
per capita violent crime rate. During my interview, which was just
weeks after two murders blocks from the Kitsap Sun’s office, I was
asked how I would take on the story. Aggressively, I said.
If you live in Bremerton, you know that each time we
do have a tragic, violent episode — even if far outside city limits
— it reinforces the stereotype.
But followers of this blog know better. There are
many positive signs of a community improving: Increasing ferry
traffic. Volunteers embracing parks. Home improvements being made.
We’ll see how long it takes for the rest of the world
10. Walking the story in
Any reporter will tell you that we spend a lot more
time with the story than what ends up in the paper. But what about
those people who want to know more, who
are curious for every last detail?
The City Council conducted fairly brisk business at its
meeting Wednesday. The seven members approved a proposal
allow beer and wine tasting at the farmers market; they created
a new parallel parking zone on Washington Avenue and 11th Street;
they even took time to congratulate student science fair
You might say the printer discussion, however, got jammed.
The decision to lease a new printer for the city’s parks
department, at a cost of $9,200 a year for half a decade, wasn’t
actually due for much talk. The Council discussed it the week prior
at its study session and had determined it to be appropriate to go
in the consent agenda, a bundle of items it votes on all at
But during public comment, Robert Parker, a civic activist who
lives in Port Orchard, took issue with the printer, saying the
parks department would need nowhere near its 150,000-page printing
capacity. Parker, who has spearheaded efforts in the city to
include the battle against discarded needles and graffiti, knows a
little something about printing: he’s run a print shop since
Councilman Roy Runyon agreed with Parker, saying some cost
savings could be found by giving the department “something they
need, not something they want.”
“This is way more machine than we need,” Runyon
His comments were too longwinded for Councilman Eric
Younger, whose “point of order” brought about an up or down vote on
whether to kill the discussion since it was a consent agenda item.
He was joined by Council members Dino Davis, Leslie Daugs and Mike
Sullivan in providing the four votes that would move the
Council past the issue.
But Council President Greg Wheeler still allowed for
further discussion despite the 4-3 vote. (Wheeler had joined Runyon
and Councilman Jerry McDonald in voting to allow discussion to
Jeff Elevado, recreation manager for the park’s
department, defended the leasing of the Ricoh MPC 6502 model copier
and printer, saying it was necessary for the volume of brochures
and program guides the department puts out each year.
“All our research is telling us that this is the
right printer,” he said.
Just about everyone weighed in and ultimately, the
Council voted 5-2 to pass the consent agenda, which included
leasing the printer (Runyon and McDonald dissented).
“It was thoroughly vetted,” Davis said of the
Quite an argument for one printer, albeit a pricey
But the discussion did make me wonder about how
city government — or really, any organization — approaches such
purchases. Elevado told me later that there’s a pool of government
entities that bid together on these pieces of technology, helping
to bring their costs down.
The city doesn’t just require a copy machine in the
parks department — there’s at least one in every department. I
wonder if there’d be a financial advantage if they were all leased
together through one contract. And for that matter, what other
pieces of equipment and technology could be bundled up and
purchased or leased together, attaining the benefits of economies
Elaine Valencia has been the executive assistant to mayors
in Bremerton since 1983. She’s survived quite a variety of
personalities, keeping each one in line and on track and
establishing a reputation that the next mayor in line felt they
couldn’t live without.
On Friday, she celebrated her 40th year with the city. But she’d
be just fine without any pomp and circumstance, happy to leave the
limelight to her boss.
“I prefer to stay in the background and not draw a lot of
attention,” she said.
A lifelong Bremerton resident — her father Jerry Yeadon was
the elected clerk of Bremerton for a couple terms — she graduated
from West High School in 1969.
She got a job in the city’s parks and recreation department as
an office assistant in 1974, transferring to the planning
department after about a year. There, she stayed until 1983,
shortly after the city’s charter passed and a strong mayor
form of government replaced a city commission in
When she left the planning department, she had it written in her
contract that she’d “bumped” back there if she lost her position in
the mayor’s office, where at that time she served Morrie
But, “I never had to use it,” she said of the contract.
The job, she said, requires a diligence in staying on top of
daily affairs and correspondence. There are days when the office is
flooded and someone unprepared would be overwhelmed. If the ball is
dropped, she said, it can damage the entire office’s — and indeed
the city’s — reputation.
Case in point: when Gene Lobe, the second mayor she served,
came aboard in 1986 he had Valencia on three months’ probation. She
recalled being late for a few things in those early days. On the
day the three months was up, he called her into his office. He
decided to retain her but told her that she was never to be
late for anything again.
“You have to be the example for all other employees,” Lobe told
The message has resonated to Valencia to this day.
“I’ve never been late since,” she said.
Mayor Louis Mentor, taking the reins in 1990, never even asked
if Valencia would stay on. She just kept going. Mayor Lynn Horton
made a point of asking that she stay, Valencia said.
Mayor Cary Bozeman told Valencia “everyone told me that I have
to keep you,” and so she stayed through another tenure.
When current Mayor Patty Lent was elected, it was a familiar
face. Both had known each other through the Lions Club and Valencia
had seen Lent in the mayor’s office before when Lent was a county
Over those five mayors’ tenures she’s watched a downtown
bustling with life nearly die, only to be reborn again in recent
Yep, that’s the idea. We’re live blogging the mayor’s debate,
for those of you who don’t want to come downtown to the Norm and
see thing in person. Or maybe you will be at the event with your
iPhone. Either way, join us at 7 p.m., assuming technology rewards
our faith in it.
Bremerton’s five mayoral candidates met at the Cloverleaf this
morning to explain their plans and views.
It’s from these that I’ll go back and write the story, which
you’ll see later.
I don’t know if providing notes will be helpful or not, or
whether I’ll do it again. I happened to have it work out this time
and wasn’t interrupted during the debate, so for this one here you
go. If there are any swear words in here, they’re accidental. No
one said any. Continue reading →
It happens in the news biz. You’re working on a story and tell
your editor it might be a little long, only to receive the
wince/sigh combo that only means one thing. “Space is tight in
I had a conversation with Bremerton attorney Stan Glisson, who
made a few points that I I thought people might be interested in.
The Interwebs have unlimited space, so I’ll write them here.
Glisson isn’t involved in the lawsuit over the traffic cameras,
but he isn’t surprised to see some legal action.
“The frustration level people have is very high,” he said.
He researched the law himself a couple months ago after getting
a ticket in the mail. He received the ticket a couple of weeks
after it caught his car driving through the intersection. We’ve
reported before that some people get out of the tickets by
testifying in court – under threat of perjury – that they weren’t
driving the car, it was someone else.
Obviously this can happen with a family member, friend, etc.
borrowing the car. But the delay between the alleged violation and
the ticket in the mail can lead to doubt about whether you were in
the car or not, Glisson said.
Can you remember what you were doing two weeks ago?
So while you have the option to contest the ticket that way, “an
honest person won’t do that if they aren’t sure,” he said.
While he isn’t a fan of the cameras, his opinion is that the
city is interpreting the RCW legally when it set the costs of the
red-light cameras within the rates for parking tickets. Red-light
tickets are $124, the priciest parking ticket is $250.
“That’s why I believe Bremerton is safe in this class action,”
In addition, I got a PowerPoint file from Bremerton finance
director Andy Parks that he’d shown the council. I’ve attached it
here (now as a PDF so it’s easier for more people to read.)
The first candidate filings are posted at the county elections site and
Bob Winters, former city councilman, is running for a seat on the
He last ran in the Manette council district, but now lives near
Kitsap Lake. Assuming Nick Wofford runs for re-election, Winters
will be at least one of his opponents. Adam Brockus is running to
retain his Manette seat.
Mike Shepherd, city councilman, was first to file for Bremerton
Downtown business owner and former city council candidate Carlos
Jara announced he will run for Bremerton mayor. Jara becomes the
sixth candidate for the job being vacated by Cary Bozeman, who will
be taking the CEO job at the port.
Jara ran in 2007 for the seat won by Roy Runyon. He and his
wife, Christina, moved to Bremerton in 2004. He opened Puget Sound
Box & Shipping near the ferry terminal and later turned it into
Harborside Market. Christina Jara owns and operates the Isella Day
Spa, also in downtown.