Meet the Candidates: PO Mayor’s Race

Despite different styles and personalities, candidates agree new mayor must take charge.

Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel announced in early April she would not seek re-election at the end of her first term, leaving the race wide open. Vacant buildings in the downtown core are a glaring sign of the city’s potential yet to be achieved, even as some downtown business owners have worked to improve the appearance of the area. The Port Orchard City Council has been working for more than a year on a downtown plan that could spell relief for the city’s economy, but some merchants and property owners are frustrated with how long it’s taken. Constituents voting in the upcoming primary election will no doubt be looking for candidates who have a clear vision of Port Orchard’s future and the leadership skills needed to make it happen


Kathleen Dolan-Bowes
“I think the problem is downtown is a jigsaw puzzle,” said Kathleen Dolan-Bowes, a retired chemical dependency counselor. “Everyone has a different interest. Everyone has a different piece. … Anyone sitting in that mayor’s office is going to have to say, ‘Look, this is the way we need to go.’”
Dolan-Bowes grew up in the Bronx — she’s quick to tout her East Coast accent — and remembers the boarded up buildings in her old neighborhood. She said she sees the same thing happening in Port Orchard, buildings being bought up “as a tax write off,” and it makes her mad.
“You cannot make a profit off the backs of the citizens of Port Orchard,” she said. “I love our city. I believe I can help it grow.”
To do so, Dolan-Bowes would use her counseling skills, even going so far as to bring in a dispute resolution facilitator if needs be to build consensus among city council members and city staff. The decision on the marquee, for example, was overly prolonged, she said.
“It became a laughing matter. Things need to be addressed then move on, get on with it,” said Dolan-Bowes. She admires Abel but said, “I think she didn’t have the ability to bring the city council and the planners to same plate. There has to be a common ground some way.”
Dolan-Bowes wants to see development happen in Port Orchard, but not at the expense of current residents. She, has lived in Kitsap County since 1974. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in organizational leadership. She served as a Kitsap County court bailiff from 1979 to 1986, and has had experience in grant writing. Her children and grandchildren have attended South Kitsap Schools, giving her a strong investment in the community, she said.
Tom Saunders
Tom Saunders said his extensive background in business and community service would be an asset were he elected Mayor of Port Orchard.
Saunders was raised in Bremerton and attended West High School. He formerly worked as a manager for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and has owned his own business, Saunders Appraisal, for 36 years. He is a long-time member of Kitsap Kiwanis Club, and he served in the state level of the Kiwanis organization.
Saunders said he wants to see the City of Port Orchard capitalize on its assets.
“We need a vision of what Port Orchard can be,” he said. “We’ve got a good downtown right now. I think it can be built upon.”
Saunders said he would encourage pride of ownership among landlords of downtown buildings, and he would like to see the city do more to attract tourists.
He said the city council also has potential, but that it is stagnant.
“Possibly we could get some new blood in there, new thinking,” Saunders said. “There are several that have a vision, several that are looking back at Port Orchard as is was in the 1950s and ’60s. It’s time for a change.”
Saunders said he’s a good listener who would maintain an open-door policy and work toward compromise among groups with conflicting interests.
He admits he’s not a flashy public speaker, but said he would make up for it with dedication and a sense of service to the community.
“I don’t know if you realize, I’m not much in front of a crowd. I get a bit nervous” he said earlier this month at a debate hosted by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. “But you get me outside the door, and I come alive.”
Lary Coppola
Lary Coppola, editor of the Kitsap Business Journal and host of the West Sound Politics blog, said reducing crime would be his top priority as Mayor of Port Orchard.
“Port Orchard has gone from having one of the lowest crime rates for cities its size in the state, to sixth highest in violent crime. For a city our size to have a higher per capita violent crime rate than Seattle is something I believe is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Coppola said he would direct more resources to the Port Orchard Police Department.
“We have a great police department working with their hands tied behind their back,” he said.
He would promote anti-crime ordinances such as those that have been successful in other cities, and he would make improvements to the city’s Web site that would reduce crime through increased awareness and communication with citizens.
Coppola has also said that economic development is the key to reducing crime in the city.
“I believe our city is at a major crossroads,” he said at the debate. “We need to have a proactive economic development plan, and right now, we don’t.”
Coppola said he would aggressively pursue annexation of surrounding areas and seek grants for new initiatives to spur economic growth.
He said he has been “frustrated” watching the city council, and he would use his experience as a business owner to direct proceedings at council meetings in a timely and meaningful way. He said Port Orchard could find an object lesson in Bremerton’s redevelopment.
“Cary Bozeman was the catalyst,” Coppola said. “He has done a marvelous job in getting everyone pointed in the same direction.”
Coppola has lived in South Kitsap since 1975, with a business in Port Orchard since 1979. He owns Wet Apple Media, which produces the Kitsap Business Journal and other publications. He is serving his second term on the Kitsap County Planning Commission and has chaired the Citizen’s Advisory Group for joint City of Port Orchard/Kitsap County Sub Area Planning Process. He was the 2005-2006 chair of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance.
Coppola and his wife Dee moved to Port Orchard last year. They are raising their 3-year-old grandson.

3 thoughts on “Meet the Candidates: PO Mayor’s Race

  1. I would like to see a candidate that understands that the city’s youth are its most valuable resource and proceed with that in mind. More law enforcement is good, but more emphasis should be given to preventing the need for additional law enforcement, especially in regards to the city’s youth.

    Of the top 10 or 12 economic countries in the world right now, 5 or 6 of them are Scandinavian. Why? Because everyone is skilled, everyone is well-educated, everyone does well, or has the opportunity to do so. Economic prosperity follows.

    I don’t see Port Orchard as a community that values its youth. At all. The South Kitsap School District does, on the other hand, but should they have to take the lead? And should they have to do it all? I think the City Council has to do a little more than say the bond is a good thing.

    And things get worse for the kids. The indoor skate park is gone, the outdoor skatepark is gone, there are still no lights at the Retsil soccer field. You can legally buy drug paraphenelia where the indoor skatepark used to be. At the foot of hill coming from the high school. Talk about a mixed message.

    I hope the mayoral candidates realize that by looking out for the youth in the community and demanding that outside investors do as well, will stimulate long-term economic growth.

    Maybe that’s something everyone can agree on.

  2. Well said, Karen!

    I’m a SKHS grad and someone who moved away from SK to raise a family for the reasons you listed above. Couldn’t agree more.

  3. I don’t know about the other Scandinavian countries…but Norway has a few oil platforms in the North Sea, among other things…making Norway rich in natural resources.

    I have opinions about Scandinavian people, in particular, Norway…. among the most inventive, strong work ethic, sense of humor, athletic, never quit attitude … but not,

    “…everyone is skilled, everyone is well-educated, everyone does well, or has the opportunity to do so. Economic prosperity follows.”

    Not so.

    Norway, rich in natural resources, was impoverished to the point millions of Norwegians emigrated to America and other countries (New Zealand for one)….and the Norwegian immigrants brought their strength, ingenuity, work ethic, intelligence and desire to make a new life here in America..

    An oil platform or two brought prosperity to Norway and for many, a crippling ‘caste’ system changed with prosperity. The government owns the oil wealth…

    The comment, …”…You can legally buy drug paraphernalia…” in PO is hard to believe.

    …in my opinion,
    Sharon O’Hara

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