The Future of Kingston: Who I am and What I Stand For
Candidate for Commissioner, Port of Kingston
November 2013 General Election
I. Why I Am Running for the Port Commission
I am running for the Port Commission because I am a service-oriented person who looks for ways to add value to the world around me. I am running because I believe that my talents, skills and experiences can help Kingston and the Port of Kingston make important decisions at a critical time in their history. I am running because I want to help the citizens of our community determine what our community becomes in the future.
The decisions that the Port makes over the next six years will affect our community for decades to come. I want to help set the tone for making those choices. I would like to see a future Kingston where our grandchildren can find good jobs when they graduate from high school or college; a Kingston where young couples can raise their families and enjoy safe parks, clean beaches and a healthy environment; a Kingston where senior citizens can live out their years in peace and security. In other words, a Kingston that is surrounded by beauty, diverse in its makeup and secure in its economy.
In short, I am running because I believe that I can add value to the community by serving as a Port of Kingston Commissioner. I offer solid reasoning, thoughtful stewardship and strong, quiet leadership.
II. My Personal Background
My blend of skills, experience and education will diversify and broaden the Port Commission’s perspective. I do not have a boat in the marina, but I do have a bachelor’s degree in economics and history from Whitworth College (1969), a master’s degree in education from University of Washington (1978) and a law degree from Gonzaga University (1989). I also have a broad range of work experience in both the public and the private sector, and I have been both an employee and an employer. My wife and I were married in Issaquah in 1973 and, after living in Seattle, Helena, Montana and Spokane, we moved to Kitsap County in 1989. We have two adult children and grandchildren in Kingston area schools.
III. Why My Experience Matters
My wife and I operated our own retail electronics business in Helena, Montana for seven years, and my biggest take-away from that experience was an appreciation of how hard it is to run a business of your own. I have tremendous respect and admiration for the small business owners who provide the majority of the jobs in our communities. For these reasons, I expect to spend much of my time and energy as a port commissioner visiting with and listening to Kingston’s business community, seeking to identify ways in which the Port District can encourage increased tourism and facilitate other opportunities to strengthen existing businesses and attract new businesses. However, I will be ever aware that unplanned development and excessive growth are a threat to both our quality of life and to our environment.
Prior to owning and operating my own retail business, I had a 10-year career in education. That began in 1971 with a staff position at Bellevue Community College, where I eventually also became a part-time faculty member teaching classes in library management and audio visual media production skills. In 1975, I accepted a position with the Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, where I stayed for five years. My position involved putting on workshops and programs to help the state’s public schools meet state accreditation standards; I was also a liaison to the university and college teacher training programs in the state for compliance with teacher certification requirements and I administered state and federal grants related to school library and audio visual programs. I met and worked with many dedicated and talented public employees during this time, but I also gained an appreciation for the entrepreneurial spirit and how indispensable that spirit is to good stewardship of public resources.
In 1986, at the ripe old age of 39, I began a new career path and enrolled in the Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane. With a wife, two kids, car payments and a mortgage, I was one motivated student! While I was in law school and working part time for a Spokane law firm and a federal magistrate judge, my wife, Barb, undertook the role of primary breadwinner for the family. Without her help, I would never have been able to accomplish this. In 1989, I graduated summa cum laude and began my law career with a Seattle law firm. Twenty-four years later, August 1, 2012, I retired. In between, I won and lost my share of arguments, but I also received an “AV” rating by Martindale-Hubble (the highest rating for ethical standards and professional excellence), and multiple awards for pro bono legal representations. I was listed by SeattleMet Magazine as one of Seattle’s Top Lawyers in 2010 and 2011 and I was listed in “Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” for five straight years (2008-2012).
Most of my years as an attorney focused on complex commercial bankruptcy. Business bankruptcies, also known as Chapter 11 reorganization, are an effort to balance the residual value in a bankrupt business with the rights of its creditors, while trying to preserve jobs and offer trade creditors a viable customer for future business. This balancing act requires negotiating compromises and building bridges between competing interest groups to work towards common purposes. Sometimes the business is too far gone and liquidation is the only option. Other times, the conflicting interests of employees, landlords, trade creditors, bond holders, banks and other secured lenders can be reconciled and balanced in a way that is fair and equitable, and gives everyone some – but not all – of what they want.
Over the last 24 years, I have dealt with an incredible array of businesses, from mega corporations like Enron to family farms in Eastern Washington; from franchise and chain stores to informal partnerships and sole proprietorships. The industries I worked with were equally varied: restaurants, hotels, all manner of retail, mining, manufacturing, telecommunications, energy, commercial fishing, timber, lumber mills, food processing, agriculture and real estate development, to name just a few. As a port commissioner, I can draw on this diverse, practical education to analyze and understand both our existing business community and the world of potential business opportunities that flows around Kingston on a daily basis.
A good Port Commissioner – like a good bankruptcy attorney - has to have strong listening skills, the ability to analyze business opportunities and understand finance, the ability to negotiate simultaneously with multiple interest groups and build consensus, a mind that is open to new ideas and a desire to find solutions and solve problems. I’ve trained as a mediator and arbitrator and I served on mediation and arbitration panels for both state and federal courts. For fifteen years I volunteered as a pro bono attorney for Court Appointed Special Advocates (“CASA”) in child dependency cases. I have served on the board of directors for two professional organizations, and served eleven years on the board of the nonprofit Hearing Speech and Deafness Center (www.hsdc.org). These experiences have prepared me to undertake the role of a port commissioner. I can understand and appreciate our community’s divergent and sometimes conflicting perspectives and priorities. I will listen to all viewpoints and cultivate cooperation, and I will encourage the kind of community growth that fosters family wage jobs providing goods and services for the broader community.
IV. Economic Development In Kingston and the Role of the Port District
The term “Economic Development” means different things to different people, some positive and some negative. Regardless, it should be universally accepted that a strong foundation of local businesses is a desirable goal. Local businesses provide jobs, they afford opportunities for young people, and they make a broader range of goods and services available for all of us. The Port District has a critical role to play in this mission; the challenge will be to encourage economic growth without unduly disrupting the quiet charm and other factors that attracted many of us to Kingston in the first place.
The increasing number of vacant storefronts in Kingston concerns me. The Port of Kinston has an obligation to support the local business community and seek out opportunities to foster local economic growth. In fact, the primary reason our state legislators created port districts was to promote economic development, and the legislature equipped port districts with an assortment of economic tools to use in fulfilling this responsibility. But in doing so, we must not sacrifice Kingston’s unique characteristics. Our marina and waterfront park must be preserved and maintained in first-rate condition, and the Port District’s recent property acquisitions must be put to appropriate uses only after a comprehensive program of soliciting community input. We are unlikely to achieve unanimous acceptance of the outcomes, but my experience and training can help build broader consensus and better solutions. More importantly, my experience in public and private endeavors, both large and small, and my understanding of a wide array of business models and financial structures will help the Port of Kingston achieve its role of an active, supportive player for the betterment of the whole community.
For the past few weeks I’ve made a point of talking about these issues with a broad range of business and community leaders. Some of the ideas I’ve heard can be carried out on our own, but many will require the cooperation and participation of other private and public entities, such as the Washington State Ferry System, Olympic Property Group, Port Madison Enterprises, the State Highway Department or the State Highway Patrol. However, I am confident that I can work across a broad spectrum of willing partners to find balanced, workable solutions to the challenges we face.
Please send me your comments and ideas; no one person can think of everything and I rely on the people I meet to expand and improve the range and scope of the ideas we have to choose from. With your help, we can build the future Kingston I spoke of above; a place where local businesses thrive, a place where families thrive, and a place that offers quality living in a beautiful, natural setting. In sum, a place to be proud of. I can be reached by email, Bruce@Mac4Kingston.com.