Ron Ross was the ultimate common-sense guy

I already miss Ron Ross, who was the inspiration for numerous stories I wrote through the years. Ron died two weeks ago, on May 26.

Ron Ross
Ron Ross

Every few months, Ron would call me with a questioning tone to his voice. He would talk about some city, county or state policy or regulation and tell me how it was working, or not working, and how it was affecting him or someone else.

“How does this make any sense?” he would ask.

Many times, Ron would have the nut of an issue, which would pan out into a story. Sometimes these stories involved property rights, but Ron was never the kind of property-rights advocate who believed a person should be able to do anything he wants with his property. He just wanted government rules to make sense and work for the majority of people.

It drove him crazy when a well-intentioned regulation caused more problems than it solved. Ron was, if anything, a common-sense kind of guy.

If the salmon couldn’t get upstream, he didn’t wait for all the permits he was supposed to get, not while the salmon were waiting. He just got out with some volunteers and moved the fish upstream — not to a place of his choosing, but to exactly the place where they were supposed to go. How could anyone argue with that?

I can’t begin to list all the stories that came out of conversations with Ron, but I know I will miss those conversations. He invited me to his parties, but I declined, preferring to keep things on a professional level. I told him I appreciated his thoughtfulness. Now, I wish I would have told him how much I appreciated our discussions.

I can’t begin to tell you about all the stories that came about because of Ron, but I guess I’ll mention one, a story I wrote with former police/fire reporter JoAnne Marez. The story earned a first-place award in investigative reporting from the regional Society of Professional Journalists. It was the first time I received top honors for investigative reporting.

It was the early 1980s. Ron had been tangling with downtown Bremerton business interests for years, and he had amassed quite a bit of legal ammunition. He couldn’t understand why the Bremerton Fire Department and city leaders were allowing so many downtown buildings to become fire traps, clearly in violation of the local fire codes.

JoAnne and I started with inspection reports that Ron quietly provided. We interviewed dozens of people. We thought we might find corruption and payoffs, but the situation turned out to be more complicated than that.

It seemed that well-meaning city officials had made the mistake of believing that the downtown would fail if property owners were forced to spend money on invisible upgrades. Favoritism became a byproduct of that neglect. After our stories were published, I believe city officials saw the problem clearly and began to make changes.

Ron would say it was the right thing to do.

Ron Ross would have made a great reporter, but he was also good at other things, so I value the memory of our conversations and his contributions to my work.

You can read his obituary here.

I would like to share a resolution passed this week by the three commissioners of Kitsap Public Utility District, John Armstrong, Lloyd Berg and Jim Civilla:

WHEREAS, we have lost, through death, one of Kitsap County’s finest citizens, Ron Ross, who was known by us as a property rights, environmental, and personal responsibility advocate, staunch supporter of the community, and committed family patriarch; and

WHEREAS, Ron Ross provided Public Utility District No. 1 of Kitsap County and the citizens of Kitsap County with passionate and dedicated service for many years; and

WHEREAS, the Commissioners of Kitsap PUD sincerely regret the passing of Ron Ross and will miss the personal and professional relationship they enjoyed with him;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Commissioners of Public Utility District No. 1 of Kitsap County that we extend to his bereaved wife, Nadean Ross, and her family, our heartfelt and deepest sympathy and our sincerest condolences at the passing of Ron Ross.

NOW, THERFORE, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this resolution be adopted in the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Commissioners of Public Utility District No. 1 of Kitsap County, as a permanent tribute to the memory of Ron Ross.

ADOPTED this 6th day of June 2013.

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