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Mayor Patty Lent makes her case for re-election
Bremerton Mayor Patty Lents has a pair of small silver figurines in the kitchen of her Marine Drive home.
One of them is a bear which represents her husband, Doug, who she describes as “a real man’s man.”
The other is a giraffe.
“The giraffe is me because I stick my neck out,” Lent said. “There isn’t anything I won’t do for a cause. If you needed something, I would make a phone call on your behalf. If it’s Derek Kilmer or Patty Murray, it doesn’t matter how high we need to go. If it’s the president of a company or the owner of a building, because I am the mayor, they generally take my call.”
Lent hastens to add that she also doesn’t throw around the title of her office willy-nilly.
“I believe I’m a humble mayor because the job doesn’t make me important, but the importance of that job gets things done,” she said.
Lent, though, isn’t shy about her reasons for wanting to be re-elected and letting voters know that her opponent lacks experience and isn’t ready for prime-time.
“That’s my biggest concern about my opponent,” she said. “If you aren’t connected to your community in some capacity, then I don’t think that you have a leadership quality. I have to be very honest with you, I won’t be sad or disappointed as much if I were to lose as what would happen to this city and the people in this city if I didn’t win. I have a commitment and this job is very much worth fighting for, if only for the fact that I believe I represent the city well and the people say, ‘That’s my mayor.’ “
After introducing herself while door-belling in Bremerton’s various neighborhoods, Lent often mentions the city’s new movie theater, the WinCo in West Bremerton and various street improvements.
“And I mention that we have a balanced budget which we didn’t have when I got here,” she adds. “I say that I am fiscally conservative and I want to know if I’ve done things that you think the city needs to happen. If not, I ask them what they would like me to do in my second term of office. I ask them questions.”
She also answers a lot of questions.
“People start with, ‘You didn’t want a $20 car tab fee and now we’ve got one,’ “ Lent said. “I say, but if you’ve complained about a pothole or your street being fixed, that’s the only way. We can’t count on state and federal dollars to help us like we did five years ago. We have to take care of ourselves and that’s one way this city is taking care of your safety.”
Lent has learned some other lessons in her first term.
“I think my biggest mistake as being mayor in my first term was the disruption to public works by what I did in the revolving door of public works directors,” Lent said, noting that things have stabilized considerably in the last 18 months since she hired the current director, Chal Martin.
“People like him,” Lent said. “He’s got strategic work ethics from his Air Force career and I think people like that he has a passion for the city. I think that all the department heads, whether they live in the city or not, if they don’t have a passion for what they’re doing in this city they don’t belong in this city.”
Lent also said that managing people requires respect that runs both ways.
“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t ask any of my directors or any of my employees to do that I wouldn’t do for them and I make that perfectly clear so they know that it’s not a subordinate situation when we’re talking,” she said. “I like going to their offices as much as having them in my office because they always feel like it’s going to the principal’s office when they come to mine.”
Shortly before her first term began, the city had annexed the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) and, once in office, Lent saw a letter that was sent from the city to SKIA property owners that read more like a list of demands. She went straight to the department of community development and told staffers, “I do not want a letter like this to ever go out again.”
“We went over the letter,” Lent recalls “and I said, ‘If you can’t have the first paragraph say, Welcome to the city of Bremerton… We are glad that you are a part of our population and business community,’ then don’t send it. Otherwise, they are going to read the first paragraph and won’t read any more.
“If you’re going to compliment them in the last paragraph, they’ll never get there. That’s just human nature. It’s a little bit about respecting the citizen and respecting the business person, even someone that you have to reprimand, fine or have a penalty.”
Looking 10 years down the road, Lent hopes that the city’s population has grown, home prices have gone up and the fire department is self-sustaining district of its own.
“The general fund cannot support (a city fire department),” Lent said. “I’ve told (our firefighters) this and they say they’ve heard I want to get rid of them. I don’t want to get rid of them, but I want to do something that’s sustainable for them and our citizens. With more people paying into a district for a levy and with higher value homes there will be more money from taxes to support fire service.”
Lent sees a lot of other changes as well.
“I see us having tall buildings,” she said. “I see us having more people downtown. I see a fast ferry on the hour or every 45 minutes going to Seattle. I see more artificial turf fields and activities.”
But, she didn’t stop there.
“The new Youth Wellness Center will be fully built-out and we’ll have tennis and we’ll have things for every category,” Lent said. “I want our kids to be successful. In 10 years we’ll have a number of graduating engineers, mathematicians and technology experts in the field that will fill the jobs in the shipyard because in 10 years half of our workforce will be retiring and that’s all the time we have to fill those spots. I see people getting those degrees and staying in Bremerton.”