Abel hoping to make changes in Legislature

During her four years as mayor of Port Orchard, Kim Abel quickly learned that much of the changes she hoped to enact simply could not be accomplished at a city level.

During her four years as mayor of Port Orchard, Kim Abel quickly learned that much of the changes she hoped to enact simply could not be accomplished at a city level.

“They were things that needed to be dealt with at a legislative level,” said Abel, pointing to examples such as creating a four-year degree program in Kitsap County, and expanding local ferry service and other transportation options.

So when longtime 26th District Rep. Pat Lantz approached Abel about perhaps running for her seat, Abel said it was “like a light bulb went off.

“It seemed like a really good fit,” she said, explaining that real change in education and transportation will have to occur “at the state level.”

Abel said her focus could be described as creating both healthier families and healthier communities, which can both benefit from organizations such as Kitsap Community Resources, an organization Abel said she has been involved with for a long time.

“They give a hand up, not a handout,” she said.

Another important aspect of strengthening communities, she said, is fostering local businesses.

“I’ve seen how very important small businesses are to a community,” she said, explaining that while the area sees “more small businesses start, it also has the most small businesses who fail.

“We need to help more small businesses succeed, and we can help the most at the state level,” she said, explaining that if local businesses are strong there are “more local jobs and better opportunities” for everyone.

To help local businesses grow, Abel said you also need to grow the surrounding infrastructure that educates, then transports, the workforce.

“To grow jobs in our region we need good schools, access to higher education, and efficient transportation,” she said, explaining that as a mom of two sons who attended South Kitsap schools before moving on to college, she is keenly interested in the quality and breadth of education Kitsap County can provide its residents.

Looking back on her term as the city’s mayor, Abel said she was proud of several accomplishments, including her work spurring economic development in downtown Port Orchard by working on the Downtown Overlay District and expanding sewer capabilities that will support new growth.

When asked to compare her platform with that of South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who kicked off her run for Lantz’s seat in January, Abel said she was still focusing on her own campaign.

“I’m really considering what I want to work on,” she said, explaining that the differences between her and Angel will “get narrowed down as we move forward in the campaign.”

Abel was elected to replace longtime Port Orchard Mayor Jay Weatherill in 2003, and stepped down after fulfilling her goal of just one four-year stint.

If elected to Lantz’s seat in November, Abel said she could look at the representative herself as a model.

“I look forward to continuing to make progress,” she said. “From stronger criminal sentencing laws to investments in transportation and education, (Lantz) has always made the interests of our communities her top priority.”

Lantz expressed admiration for Abel, as well.

“(She) understands the needs of our district, cares deeply about our families and communities, and I am delighted to offer her my support,” Lantz said. “She will be a strong, effective member of the Legislature.”