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Mentor: "We have to do it right the first time"

Mayoral candidate Louis Mentor definitely uses a different lens than his opponent when he sees Bremerton’s future.

Where Cary Bozeman champions his connections to developers and venture capitalists from Seattle, Bellevue and statewide, Mentor believes the key to the future is already here.

“This is one of the problems,” Mentor said. “We always think that someone from somewhere else is going to come in and save our town.”

Mentor spoke with the editorial board of the Bremerton Patriot last week on a variety of campaign topics.

“In the four years I was in office we had more activity, more things happen in this city than at any time before or since,” Mentor said.

Mentor firmly believes the city cannot depend on outside influences to begin downtown and neighborhood redevelopment.

He cited the Cornerstone development in the late 1980s, a much talked about plan for Bremerton.

“They were going to come and rebuild the waterfront and we didn’t have to do anything,” Mentor said. “We would just sit back and it was going to happen. They would build a boardwalk and shops and condominiums. Of course, it failed.”

Mentor believes that dollar by dollar, business by business, block by block, Bremerton can recover from the economic hits it took in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“Bremerton has been kicked around and banged around for a lot of years,” he said. “They used to do the kicking, but that was before things changed with Trident (submarine base) ... and they didn’t know how to react to it.”

Instead of huge development strides, Mentor sees the community reviving in smaller steps that recreate pride and friendliness.

“This is a small town actually, it’s not a city,” he said. “It’s a small town and we want to keep it that way. We want to make it where it’s a friendly place where we feel good about it.”

Mentor said his mayoral track record (1989-93), proves that he can do the job in the future. He would work closely with the community development department to hasten permitting and zoning processes for businesses willing to move into Bremerton and particularly its downtown.

“We need to fill up these stores that have been empty for so long,” Mentor said. “During my four years, we doubled construction for what it had been for the previous four years for single-family residences.”

During his term as mayor, Mentor said his biggest success was building the Boardwalk — a project that had been talked for about 30 years.

If elected, Mentor wants to see the city expand on the potential of the waterfront.

“The waterfront is the most critical thing we have,” he said. “We cannot leapfrog anywhere. We have to start there and then continue across the street and down the street. We need to develop it with shops and condos and apartments and restaurants, much like RiverPlace down in Portland.”

Extending the Boardwalk toward Manette is another project Mentor backs.

“When you get off that ferry, there (needs to be) things there for you, so people can live there and commute to Seattle, or live there and just stay downtown.”

Mentor envisions small shops extending out from the waterfront and perhaps down Washington Avenue, such as a deli, fish market, coffee shop, or dry cleaners.

“One thing leads to another,” he said.

Talking to Mentor for any length of time reveals another key theme in his campaign is neighborhoods — particularly those surrounding the downtown core.

“We have wonderful housing stock here and we need to take advantage of it,” he said. “We need to go into neighborhoods, one block at a time, and clean these neighborhoods up. It doesn’t matter what we do downtown if we don’t make these neighborhoods desirable and turn them into something where people want to live and where we can get families down here. We can’t just have singles living down here. Because if you get families in here, we can make our schools better.”

In the future that Mentor sees for Bremerton, he sees the city main’s cultural attraction playing a more dominant role — the Admiral Theatre.

“We are going to subsidize that forever until we get people living downtown. It needs to be a total experience to go to the Admiral; like when we go to the Fifth Avenue or Paramount (theaters in Seattle) or to a Husky game. It’s not the event itself, it’s the whole package. We are going to have to make it so people can go downtown to a nice restaurant and then to the Admiral and enjoy a nice evening, and then go have a glass of wine and dessert someplace.”

Mentor also believes he has a way to alleviate Bremerton’s downtown parking woes. He said the answer is not to look at 100- or 200-car solutions.

“We need to solve our parking problems. We need to have parking for thousands of cars,” he said.

“We have a great location right down here from Park up to Warren and Burwell to Sixth Street where’s there’s nothing there,” he said, with a few exceptions.

One thing Mentor said he does not see in his Bremerton crystal ball is change for change’s sake.

“I’ve heard people say let’s just do anything, even if it’s wrong,” he said. “This city can’t afford to do anything even if it’s wrong. We don’t have the funds to do something over. We have to do it right the first time."

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