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Bremerton: the year in review
As another year comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to reflect back on some of the top stories of 2013 that caught my attention for a variety of reasons.
Leading off the list is the important changes in leadership that came to pass for Bremerton.
Aaron Leavell was hired as the new Superintendent of the Bremerton School District this year and his open-door style of doing business has become the magnet that draws people into working together for the greater good of local education.
Despite the finger pointing distraction of state education funding shortcomings, the Bremerton School District has managed, with the existing resources it has, to position itself for improvements and success in 2014 and beyond. I am very proud to have my own child enrolled in the Bremerton School District.
Another hire that has already had a rather large impact on Bremerton is that of our ‘Rockstar’ Police Chief, Steve Strachan.
Right out of the gate, Chief Strachan began communicating with the citizens and residents of Bremerton in open and refreshing ways that had not been experienced for quite some time.
How this community views the police force that serves it is changing and that is a good thing. Much of that is thanks to Chief Strachan and his leadership ability.
Next up on the list is the increasing spotlight on social issues that haunt Bremerton as the main service hub for Kitsap County.
For years Bremerton residents have suffered under the heavy consequences that come from having a disproportionate percentage of the population who have drug issues, mental health problems or are registered sex offenders.
Thanks in large part to citizens and community members, the problem of used drug needle disposal is now being taken very seriously by the city of Bremerton and the Kitsap County Health Department.
New online reporting systems for suspicious drug or criminal activity and graffiti have been implemented through the city of Bremerton website making it much easier for the community to report what it sees.
Through an increase in the sale tax that was passed in September by the county commissioners, additional funding towards mental health solutions has begun. These specific and designated funds are already receiving oversight for future distribution from a combined group of citizens and community stakeholders who will ensure accountability and transparency.
Finally, I must mention the two community partnership examples that will benefit two groups of Bremerton children who have been very much under-served until now.
The first project is the recently completed and opened Boys & Girls Club Teen Center in East Bremerton.
Thanks in large part to contributions from the Bremerton School District, the city of Bremerton; the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust a unique opportunity for the teen population of Bremerton is now available.
Currently, membership only takes a small sign-up fee and $5 a month for local teens to join.
Students from several Bremerton schools can catch a bus after school that will drop them off directly at the Teen Center. It is a beautiful facility that I encourage everyone in the community to check out.
The second project is the Bremerton Beyond Accessible Playground to be completed within the existing Evergreen Rotary Park.
Much of the planning and approval for this project has already been completed and construction will begin in 2014. In my years of community and volunteer service, I have yet to see any group that has matches this one for its sheer grit, determination and inability to accept “No” as the final answer.
“So that ALL can play‚“ is the perfect explanation for why this project is so desired.
It has been my pleasure to write for all of you in 2013. I am looking forward to 2014 to be a great year for experiences to be had and stories to be shared.
Have a very happy and safe new year.