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Gregoire impressed with Bremerton

City of Bremerton economic development director Gary Sexton (right) points out key points of the revitalization of the city to Gov. Chris Gregoire during her visit to Bremerton Wednesday. - Charles Melton/staff photo
City of Bremerton economic development director Gary Sexton (right) points out key points of the revitalization of the city to Gov. Chris Gregoire during her visit to Bremerton Wednesday.
— image credit: Charles Melton/staff photo

Wednesday visit part of re-election kick-off.

Team Bremerton came out in force along with some unexpected help from Mother Nature as Gov. Chris Gregoire visited the city Wednesday as part of her re-election campaign kick-off, which included 14 stops in less than a week.

Bremerton was No. 11 on that list, but it didn’t stop Mayor Cary Bozeman and other city leaders from giving the governor an idea of how state funding has made a positive impact in the city. Mother Nature even lent a hand as double rainbows and a bald eagle on the mast of the USS Turner Joy created a picturesque setting for the tour of the city’s Harborside District.

“It’s important for her to come back and see that the money has produced results,” Bozeman said of Gov. Gregoire’s first visit to the city’s downtown since 2006.

At that time the Fountain Park wasn’t completed nor was Building 50 in place, and the Bremerton tunnel project hadn’t begun at that time, either.

After the tour, led by city economic development director Gary Sexton, Gregoire sat down with about a dozen city and county leaders including Port of Bremerton commissioner Cheryl Kincer, Port Orchard Mayor Larry Coppola, Bremerton School District Supt. Bette Hyde, Olympic College President David Mitchell and Kitsap Credit Union CEO Elliot Gregg among others.

Mitchell spoke about the college’s new online four-year engineering degree partnership with the University of North Dakota and told the governor that is just one of the ways OC is attempting to meet the need for four-year degree offerings in Kitsap County.

“Can we do something like we did with the nursing program?” Gregoire asked.

Mitchell replied that is what OC is attempting to do and that the funding provided for four-year university study during the last legislative session will be a great aid in examining the real possibilities.

On the education front, Gregoire praised both Hyde and Mitchell for their efforts saying, “This is a great partnership you have, and you are unbelievably fortunate.”

While much of the discussion was positive and upbeat, Bozeman asked Gregoire what the city can do to help resolve the current ferry system crisis that is impacting not only Bremerton, but the entire county.

“We want to know what we can do to help solve the problem,” Bozeman said.

Before answering Bozeman’s query, Gregoire said it is important to understand the state of the ferries system she inherited four years ago.

“I can’t believe what I inherited,” she said, pointing out that the system had no business plan for capital improvements including new vessels and terminal upgrades.

It took decades for the system to deteriorate to its current level, so the problems won’t be solved overnight, she said, adding that the money for new vessels won’t come from the farebox.

Another element in fixing the system is that the boats won’t be built out-of-state, she said.

“We’re going to build a workforce inside the state,” she said.

It will take time for such a workforce to be redeveloped, but Gregoire stressed the importance of keeping those jobs in the state.

Overall the state is in better shape than most of the nation with the exception of Lewis County, which lost its major employer and was devastated by last December’s floods, she said.

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