Mayoral candidates draw the line

The two finalists in the race to become Bremerton’s next mayor, Cary Bozeman and Louis Mentor, faced off at a public forum Thursday.

Bozeman emphasized his humble beginnings in foster homes and told how he discovered “public service” as his calling. Mentor also mentioned his own humble beginnings — he was raised in a “log cabin” — and emphasized his status as a hometown boy.

Bozeman alluded to his experience as a big city mayor — of Bellevue — and implied that his contacts in the wider world would pull Bremerton out of its economic funk.

Meanwhile Mentor constantly returned to his record as former mayor of Bremerton, cited his accomplishments, and said he knows the town best and knows best how to fix it.

Each candidate had an opening statement, responded to questions from 30-plus members of the public in attendance, and made concluding remarks. The “Eggs & Issues” forum, hosted by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce, was held in the basement conference room of the Washington Mutual Bank building on Pacific Avenue.

In answer to a question about their respective management styles:

• “I’m a big goal setter,” said Bozeman. “And I believe in delegating (responsibilities) and letting employees take risks. I do not believe in slackers.

“You hire good people you trust, and if they fail, the buck stops at the top and you take responsibility. But if they succeed, you give them the credit they deserve.”

• “I gave every employee a pad to write down problems they saw around town,” said Mentor. “Even the guy filling the potholes could come to me and feel involved. We put together a staff (during my administration) that was totally involved, and that’s how we got things done.”

Mentor, as well as syndicated columnist Adele Ferguson from the floor, queried Bozeman about press reports from Bellevue that described Bozeman as “out of sync” and “autocratic” as director of the Boys and Girls Club of King County.

“But I’ve learned a lot since then,” said Bozeman in response. “I’ve grown and learned and changed my philosophy.”

In response to a question about the differences between being mayor of Bellevue and mayor of Bremerton:

• Bozeman explained that unlike Bremerton, the mayor of Bellevue is elected from the council. A professional city manager runs the city. But he pointed out his experience running the Boys & Girls Club for years qualified him to manage a large organization such as a city. The Boys & Girls Club had a staff of 300 and an annual budget of $6 million, he said.

• Mentor dismissed the Bellevue mayor as “really just a council president” and said that he, Mentor, as mayor of Bremerton, had actually been running a city, and doing such things as hiring and firing people for Bremerton.

“If you have to fire a department head, it’s tough,” said Mentor.

In response to a question about the planned city-county government center:

• Both favored it, but Bozeman said the public was not given the chance to be involved enough. Also, he questioned the wisdom of the center’s location on a hill between Pacific and Washington avenues downtown — a spot he said was prime “view” property better suited to the building of condos.

On the proposed conference center/hotel complex near the waterfront:

• Such complexes often bring business to the community, but don’t make much money in and of themselves, said Bozeman. “With our hotels at 35 percent capacity and our taxes at their limit, the city’s going to have to show me how we can support it.”

• “We need to go forward with it,” said Mentor, who added that the city needs a grant writer to help garner funds for downtown redevelopment.

The candidates were asked how they will help small businesses?

• “There’s no simple answer,” said Mentor. “We need to make the city clean again; bring back banners and flower baskets. When I was in office we started a ‘facade repair’ program. The permitting process (at Building & Planning) must be made easier. Too often it seems they take pleasure in delaying things.”

• “We need to start an entrepreneurial training program at Olympic College,” said Bozeman. “We need to inventory the businesses in town and put them on a map so new businesses will know where the competition is. Technology is the answer. Tacoma has done a great job of developing into a ‘smart city’ this way with computer software.”

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