We got word from multiple sources that Vincent Akhimie, public works director for the city of Bremerton for the past year, had resigned, or been fired, one of those. It took a couple hours to get official confirmation.
I spoke with the mayor, Patty Lent, about Akhimie’s resignation, and at the end of our conversation she provided his cell phone number for me to call, a number I did not have. I called it and left a message. I then began writing a story based on the information I had and hoped Akhimie would call while I was writing. He didn’t, so we posted a story initially that said we could not reach him.
In my limited experience with Akhimie over the last year he was always helpful to me in my purposes. I was away on vacation last week and fellow reporter Chris Henry filled in for me at the city council meeting. Akhimie was helpful then, too. He went back to his office after the meeting to email a document to her.
Around 5 p.m. he called me at my desk after the story was already posted. I thought he was responding to my phone call, but in fact the phone number I had received from the mayor was Akhimie’s work cell phone number. Since he was no longer an employee of the city he no longer had that phone. He provided his version of the story, much of which appears in print.
I asked him what he was most proud of during his time and he said there was a list he’d like to write and send to me later in the evening. I said I would welcome the list, but that later in the evening would be too late for print. I did say I could post it on the Kitsap Caucus blog. The letter arrived in my email box today, Wednesday, at 3:37 p.m. Here it is:
TO: Steven Gardner, Reporter, Kitsap Sun
Below are my comments regarding the Kitsap Sun article, “Public Works Director Resigns,” as you suggested at the conclusion of our 7/12/11 evening phone conversation.
When I took the job of Public Works Director with the City, I made it clear to the Mayor at the outset that the Department’s challenges could not be resolved overnight and that it would likely take at least two years to turn things around. The Mayor wanted to accelerate changes in her administration and so did I. However, based on my twenty-plus years of experience in government, I suggested to the Mayor that gradual, incremental and well thought-out, vetted changes would be more sustainable and effective. I communicated to her the potential negative consequences of moving too fast. The Fifth Street debacle is an example of how things can go wrong when forced.
Despite any differences in style or opinions, I was able and willing to modify my approach to carry out her direction. In my career, I get things done, to the satisfaction of my clients when I was a consultant and to the satisfaction of my supervisors when I serve in the public sector. I respect the Mayor and her position. My separation from her administration was amicable.
Your July 12th article reported the Mayor as stating, “Communication was lacking.” Actually, there was more than enough communication between me and her, Public Works staff, the public and all branches of City government. The problem was that there was too much unproductive communication circumventing my office, top-down and bottom-up. An example is the recent surprise one-way Fifth Street implementation which ultimately involved the Finance Director. The Fifth Street one-way change, which met with opposition from Council and the public to some extent, was done without my authorization or sign-off as the City’s Public Works Director.
I am certain that I could have continued to make more significant contributions to the progress of the City of Bremerton. A lot has been accomplished under my leadership as Public Works and Utilities Director during my tenure with the City working with staff, as exemplified by: reducing the Department’s cost of operations by approximately $750,000 while increasing service levels in the Department; facilitating $3,000,000 in grant-funded Lower Wheaton Way road improvements; facilitating the start of $800,000 in grant-funded stormwater improvements for Anderson Cove including public waterfront access; resolving the approximately 15-year old Harrison Medical Center issue, allowing this major employer to move forward to expand their kitchen and surface parking facilities in East Bremerton; reprioritizing the Department’s Capital Improvements Program and moving ahead with the $2.5 million Cross Town pipeline project in order to avoid emergencies due to recurring breaks in this major sewer line without the use of outside consultants; obtaining additional remediation funding of $230,000 from the State Ecology Department to allow site work to be completed within budget for the City’s Evergreen Memorial Park; encouraging and fostering community outreach programs such as the public event marking the completion of the City’s Combined Sewer Overflow Reduction project, at which the Governor and Director of Ecology commended the Mayor and the City Bremerton as “a leader and role model” in water quality in the State, and a public campaign to improve water quality at Kitsap Lake.