It’s Debatable: Mayoral Candidates Agree on Economy

Judging by today’s debate among Port Orchard Mayoral candidates, there’s not much to debate. What did become clear is the difference in personalities among the three.
Economic development dominated the agenda at the event, hosted at Le Garmache by the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. And all three candidates — Tom Saunders, Kathleen Dolan-Bowes and Lary Coppola — agreed the city needs leadership and a plan to succeed.

The candidates were each given a chance to introduce themselves and respond to questions submitted by community members. All answered the same questions, which they were given in advance. Topics ranged from parking, to unoccupied buildings to team building, but the overarching theme was how to juice up the town’s economy.
“I believe our city is at a major crossroads,” said Coppola, publisher of the Kitsap Business Journal. “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.
Dolan-Bowes, speaking on the local economy, cited advice from Leavenworth’s Mayor Melvin Wyles, who spoke to the chamber last month. She said Port Orchard needs to unite behind a clear vision of its future.
“We can plan, we can plan, we can plan,” she said. “But his message was, unless we can agree on a development plan, we’re dead in the water.”
Saunders said, if he were elected mayor, he would encourage pride of ownership among landlords of downtown buildings.
“Right now there’s not a lot of pride in some of the properties downtown,” Saunders said, although he noted some building owners and businesses have worked hard to make their properties look better.
Saunders said he would look at getting “the highest and best” use out of buildings.
The candidates were most diverse when they were talking about themselves and their leadership styles.
“I would lead by example. I certainly can’t act one way and expect the staff to act another. … I am a decision-maker; that does have to be said from the get go,” said Dolan Bowes, a retired substance abuse counselor with a master’s degree in organizational leadership.
Dolan-Bowes, who grew up in the Bronx, also poked fun at her East Coast accent, saying, “I don’t do ‘The Sopranos,’ but I can.”
Coppola, seeming self-assured, cited a long list of what he sees as his qualifications for the job, including 28 years as a local business owner with “an absolutely unbridled passion about the future of our city.”
“Finally I believe my long list of bipartisan endorsements speaks for itself,” said Coppola.
Saunders, a former FEMA manager and 36-year owner of a local appraisal business, said he’s a good listener, who would maintain an open-door policy.
“I don’t know if you realize, I’m not much in front of a crowd. I get a bit nervous” said the mild-mannered Saunders. “But you get me outside the door, and I come alive.”

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