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Horton reflects on civic career in Bremerton

Two questions.

How did a fashion designer get into politics?

What does a retiring mayor do after being in charge?

“I sort of got talked into it,” said outgoing Bremertom Mayor Lynn Horton ruefully about running for City Council in 1987, her first foray into political life. Once she got elected, she began to enjoy it.

Now that she’s about to leave the mayor’s office to Cary Bozeman, “It’s time to put my feet up.... Sit home for a while and not make any decisions about anything — not even dinner.”

A few of Horton’s supporters said she didn’t try very hard in the seven-way race for mayor over the summer. Although she didn’t admit to not wanting a third term, she did confess to “Hating asking people for money (political donations),” and went on at length about how eight years as mayor was a “24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, year-round job.... Even when you’re on vacation.”

Horton said after resting a while, she might look into becoming a state lobbyist, or she may revive her clothes designing business.

Her husband Frank, a PSNS engineer, said the couple will travel to Orlando in January to watch their daughter, Leslie, in a national cheerleading competition. Leslie, a student at the UW, is a cheerleader for the Huskies.

Will Horton ever run for office again?

“Geez,” she said with a sigh, “I hope not. I’ll never say never, but running for office is so difficult.”

Horton spoke about a brother on the Tumwater City Council who loves campaigning. To Horton, the only part of “campaigning” she’s aware of is the syllable in the middle — the “pain.”

Horton said she’s proud of her tenure on the Council and as mayor. The Council oversaw a number of accomplishments in the city’s growth while she was a member:

• A land swap with Olympic College in which OC got Roosevelt Field and the city got land where a proposed hotel/conference center and parking complex may soon locate, near the waterfront.

• A citywide Comprehensive Plan and Rezone was hammered out, as well as a Waterfront Urban Renewal Plan.

• The Boardwalk was built in 1991-92, on then-Mayor Louis Mentor’s watch.

• Horton, Mentor and the Council continued to try to sort out long-standing problems with sewer plant odors and resulting lawsuits.

She ran for mayor against Mentor in 1993, and beat him, beginning the first of two terms on office.

“The first thing I did as mayor was an assessment of the city,” she said. “I realized we had a long way to go.”

Horton listed accomplishments under her stewardship as mayor:

• A second 18-hole course at the city-owned Gold Mountain Golf Complex was completed along with a clubhouse.

• She worked with the Sinclair Landing Association, which, though it fell short of completing many grand redevelopment plans, did eventually create the new Bremerton Transportation Center at the ferry terminal.

• Property was rezoned near Gorst for the planned Northwest Campus, an industrial park.

• Several hundred acres of the planned Port Blakely project near Kitsap Lake were rezoned. Port Blakely is a huge mixed-use business and residential project.

• The city moved the Gateway Project forward, designed to beautify and make more functional the ingress and egress at the city’s southern end.

• Doubled the size of Evergreen Park on Park Avenue. Upgraded many other parks and created a downtown “Art District.”

• Rebuilt the Building and Planning Department with new planning chief, Chris Hugo.

• Oversaw plans for a new multi-government center in the downtown core.

“We tackled problems that had been going on for years,” she said. “Like the sewer plant and the stormwater system.... Projects that had languished for years.”

Horton‘s farewell gift to the city — perhaps her lasting legacy — may be the hoped for hotel/conference center and parking complex planned for the waterfront. The Public Facilities District, which had been holding $11.5 million in sales tax revenue for regional improvements, just awarded Bremerton a hefty $6.9 million slice of that pie to help get the project started. City officials say with PFD seed money, they’ll be able to sell bonds and get a developer to complete the project.

The waterfront project is expected to give Bremerton’s tourist market a huge shot in the arm. This, plus the hoped for multi-government center downtown, may give the city a huge economic boost.

“I think my administration has done more than the community will ever realize. A lot of it wasn’t flashy — just basic things to help the community grow and develop,” Horton said.

Horton developed a reputation for having a temper and for stubbornness. She said she knows she may not be remembered fondly by all.

“Somebody once told me compliments are written in sand and criticisms are written in concrete,” Horton said.

Lynn Horton — a biography

Lynn Horton was born in Aberdeen. At age 7 her family move to Elma where she graduated from high school. She also attended Seattle University and the University of Washington, where she studied home economics.

She worked for Pendleton Woolen Mills in Portland in the early 1970s. She married Frank Horton in 1974, who worked at PSNS as an engineer. Horton continued to work for various clothing companies as a designer. The couple had a daughter, Leslie, in 1980.

After her daughter was born, Horton started her own company in Kitsap, designing and manufacturing linen clothing. She was on the Council 1988-93, and was mayor from 1994-2001.

Horton had fans and foes

Mayor had friends and detractors.

Parting thoughts and shots on Mayor Lynn Horton:

• “I think she is a very bright, visionary person, and one of the most articulate speakers I’ve ever heard.... There was the impression there was a war between the mayor and the Council, but there was just a break in communication.”

— Council member Carol Arends

• “There were some problems with department heads and some real controversy, but as she leaves the city, every department is in good hands.”

— Council member Will Maupin

• “I thoroughly enjoyed the years I worked with Lynn. I think she should be proud of what she’s done and the groundwork she’s laid for the future.”

— Former Council member David Farr

• “There were problems for a while, but look at the new B&P Department and all the good that’s happened later — the planned multi-government center and planned hotel/conference center.... I can’t think of anyone who’s done more with just those three things alone.”

— Council member Ed Rollman

• “When I was mayor and she was on the Council, we got a lot of things done.... A lot of things we started she went on to accomplish.”

— Former Mayor Louis Mentor

• “If the public really knew how much she (Horton) gave up to settle the the conflict with (former City Attorney Glenna Malanca and certain members of the Council). It’s too bad it took four months and a lot of money to straighten it out. Glenna was an excellent attorney.... Two strong willed women is what it came down to. But we all learned from our mistakes.”

— Council member Wayne Olsen

• “We liked good, non-biased legal opinion. Lynn liked legal opinion that supported her direction.... At one point I saw the attorney (Malanca) standing in the hall bawling her eyes out because Lynn had just chewed her a new one.”

— Council member Jim Reed

• “I think she’s the best thing that ever happened to me and the best thing that ever happened to the city. She’s always been able to balance things really well: She takes care of me, she takes care of (our daughter) Leslie, and she takes care of the city.”

— Husband, Frank Horton

• “No comment.”

— Council President John Law.

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