Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman talks vision, leadership, life...

Mayor Cary Bozeman came to Bremerton from Bellevue, where he served on the Bellevue City Council from 1976 to 1993 and was elected to three terms as mayor. After serving as executive director of the Olympic College Foundation for five years, Bozeman edged Louis Mentor in the race for Bremerton mayor in 2001, assuming the position Jan. 1, 2002. Now in his second term, which ends in 2010, Bozeman has made over a crumbled waterfront and continues to patch together old — and new — downtown Bremerton.

He recently welcomed us to his sixth-floor post in the Norm Dicks Government Center to answer questions about the city’s challenges and accomplishments, his goals, visions and life as mayor.

Question: What’s your favorite part of Bremerton?

Answer: Well, it’s the waterfront. We’re trying to redevelop the waterfront, it’s kind of the jewel of our city and it’s where the economic opportunities are. That’s where we spend most of our time. I love Fountain Park, that’s my favorite spot now.

Q: What was it like coming from Bellevue to Bremerton?

A: Real different. One community is more of a retail center with Bellevue Square and Microsoft, a lot of technology, a lot of retail. To come over here, it was mostly centered around the military and the Navy and the shipyard. Two different economies. But the issues don’t change that much, the needs don’t change that much, no matter what community you’re in.

Q: What drew you to Bremerton?

A: I took a job working for the college, part-time, just to do a contract job. I really liked working at the college, I liked working with community college kids. The college offered me a full-time job and I accepted it. I was commuting for a while but decided that didn’t work, so I bought a house in Manette and I’ve lived there ever since. Olympic College brought me to Bremerton.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge Bremerton faces?

A: Growing our economy. Cities today are dependent on having a strong economy and (being) able to have the funds to provide services. You have to bring in new jobs, you have to bring in businesses, you have to bring in retail. It’s growing our economy, providing good jobs for people so that we can then have the funds to provide good services.

Q: What major projects are you currently working on?

A: The big one on the boards that we’re real excited about is the old (J.C.) Penney project that’s been bought by a developer. We’ve always hoped that Penney’s would again be a retail center, not just a parking garage. Penney’s is the biggest piece of ground we have in the city, it dominates downtown. Two years from now, that building will look entirely different. It will be five stories high, it will have 200 apartments, it will have a big old grocery store, it’s just going to be fabulous. Another (project) is the new hotel going in on the old City Hall site. I’d say the hotel is the next biggest project, getting a second hotel for our conference center. It’s going to be a Marriott (with) 110 units.

Q: How are you outwardly expanding Bremerton’s revitalization, from downtown into the neighborhoods?

A: We’ve been working on the park system; that’s been our second priority, to upgrade our parks. We got a $2 million grant for Lions Park. We’re going to redo the whole waterfront shore at Lions Park. We’re taking over the old Chevron site adjacent to Evergreen Park and we’re cleaning that up and expanding Evergreen Park. We’re working on Kiwanis Field, expanding that. We’ve got a nice park system, but we want to expand it. We’ve been working with the Westpark people on redeveloping the old Westpark project. We’ve got a new Eastpark development going in with 400 new homes above the YMCA.

Q: What are your proudest moments as mayor?

A: I’ve got a lot of proud moments. We’ve broken ground on a lot of projects and cut a lot of ribbons here. It’s been one project at a time that we’ve gotten accomplished. We wanted some development on the waterfront in terms of people living downtown. No one had ever lived downtown in Bremerton, getting the condominiums built. Getting the Navy to build a new parking garage so we could take some of that Navy parking off our downtown streets, I was proud of that. I was really proud of the development of Fountain Park. I was proud that we were able to expand our marina from 50 slips to 360 slips. I was proud that we built our conference center and public plaza. I’m proud that we finally got Anthony’s to move to Bremerton, that was a big deal for us. When Kitsap Credit Union decided to build their new headquarters in the Harborside District, that was a proud moment. We’ve had a lot of good moments here in Bremerton in the last six years.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Golf, gardening, being with my friends. I go to Hawaii every year, I love Hawaii. My hobbies are pretty simple; once I’m outside the city I like time by myself. Sometimes I’ll get in the car and drive over to Wenatchee or Cashmere and just hang out. I’m kind of an introvert, other than my job. I like my privacy. When I’m on my own time, I like to be either with a few friends or by myself. I like to read, I’m a huge reader and I like to read about people who change the world. I believe one person can initiate change.

Q: Who made the biggest impact on your life?

A: I would say because I was a foster kid, I didn’t have any family, that my teachers in high school really helped mold me and gave me confidence. I was an athlete and I think my coaches gave me confidence, gave me self-esteem, made me feel like I was somebody special.

Q: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

A: One summer when I was in college, I worked with a construction company. We were laying curb and gutter up in Mount Vernon and it was hot. That was an awful job ... I decided I was going to finish college, that I wanted to work with my mind rather than with my back. I’m not inclined mechanically. It didn’t take me long in college to realize that I wanted to be the boss, I wanted to manage, I wanted to be the CEO, I wanted to be in the leadership position. I like having the responsibility of making decisions.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: Very hands-on. But I give a lot of room for my managers to lead. I believe you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with and I like to hire really smart people. I tell my people, “If I know more than you know about your job, you’re in trouble.” I like to be a good listener. I think you learn a lot from listening.

Q: How would you describe Bremerton to somebody who has never seen or heard of it?

A: A beautiful, mid-size city on the water in Puget Sound. Great quality of life, good schools, good medical services, affordable in terms of housing, a great place to raise a family. I think Bremerton is the perfect size city, it’s not too small, it’s not too big. It’s just the right size.

Q: What is your approach toward promoting a vision?

A: My approach is I understand how important it is to communicate and be consistent with your message. As they say in the business, you can’t be flip-flopping from one day to another on what’s most important to you. I focus on delivering a constant message to the region about the value of Bremerton.

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