Bremerton City Council candidates talk plans and concerns for city

The only contested race is for District 6; Michael Simpson and Anna Mockler

As the Nov. 5 general election inches closer, four Bremerton City Council positions will be starting new terms. Kitsap News Group reached out to the candidates to find out the important issues from their perspective.

The only contested race this year will be for the District 6 position that current councilmember Richard Huddy is serving. Huddy announced earlier this year that he would not be seeking re-election. The two candidates vying for the open council seat are Michael Simpson and Anna Mockler.

Simpson is a native of Bremerton and has 22 years of service in the U.S. Army and Washington National Guard. He also served 13 years with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office as a Correctional Officer and Deputy Sheriff.

Mockler’s previous professional experience includes being a union printer, a wetland scientist for King County, and a professor of Writing and Critical Thinking at City University of New York.

“Everything I’ve done in my life has prepared me for this position,” Simpson said. “I joined the military and it helped codify my leadership and management skills. I was a corrections officer so I learned how to speak in the voice of the folks that we had to manage. As a deputy sheriff, I got to work with people in crisis and help them make the decisions that were going to make their lives better. These are things that have kind of flavored everything that I’ve done.”

“It’s a detail-oriented job; you’re reading budgets, establishing goals,” Mockler said. “You’re basically juggling a lot of balls and thinking about the good of the city. I’ve been going to city council meetings since last fall. I’ve been reading the agendas, I’ve been reading the packets, I know what the issues are.”

Both candidates addressed some current issues they have identified within the City of Bremerton.

“A primary example would be narrowing the lanes on the Warren Avenue Bridge,” Simpson said. “There are a lot of people who live and work in this city and when you narrow the lanes of the bridge and take that median out, you’re going to get people killed.”

“Road repair is an issue,” Mockler said. “The roads are not unsafe, they’re just not perfect. People would like sidewalks, but sidewalks are $1 million a mile. Right now what we have in general are roads that are dedicated to cars. It’s much easier to build a strong community if people can walk around.”

Simpson and Mockler also addressed the recent developments with Kitsap Rescue Mission moving into the Salvation Army for the winter months after the City of Bremerton did not renew their temporary shelter permit.

“I don’t feel the city is going in the right direction with this,” Simpson said. “We need to partner better with our 501 (c)(3) organizations. The residents here are not seeing responsiveness from the city, they’re seeing the city just kind of blow them off and not give them a good answer.”

“Kitsap Rescue Mission has a discriminatory hiring policy,” Mockler said. “I don’t know what else the mayor and the city council could have legally done.”

Seeking her fourth term for the District 2 seat on the Bremerton City Council is councilmember Leslie Daugs, who is running unopposed for the position. She is currently the vice president of council, chair of the audit committee, and on the executive committee for Kitsap Community Resources and the Affordable Housing Task Force.

“I am a strong believer in making sure that we have affordable housing,” Daugs said. “One of the issues in Bremerton is that we are growing. I welcome new families to our area but I also want to recognize our existing families and I don’t want to push families out because of this growth. I want to make sure that affordable housing is for all individuals, not just a certain population.”

Daugs also stated she wanted to see more future development in her district.

“As Bremerton is growing, my particular district is one of the areas that has room for growth,” she said. “There’s apartments being built and I just want to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our neighborhoods as well as future growth for Bremerton. Looking at some of the codes and modernizing it to this time because some of our codes are a little bit old and archaic and if we don’t look at them periodically, then sometimes that will affect growth in our community.”

As Daugs approaches her fourth term, she looked back on some of the important city council aspects she’s learned over the years.

“It’s definitely a partnership in working with the city council and mayor,” she said. “I’ve learned that I have to work equally fairly with everyone, just to make sure that our point is shared. If you don’t have buy-in from everyone around you, then you’re not getting anything done.”

Current Councilmember Lori Wheat is also seeking re-election and is running unopposed for the District 4 seat at the dais. Wheat was appointed to the position in January and is also on the audit, finance, investment, and parking council committees.

“I think District 4 needs proactive and responsive representation, which hopefully I’m currently providing,” Wheat said. “We need to make sure we have adequate funding to properly maintain infrastructure and we need more advocacy for our most vulnerable residents.”

Wheat addressed the common and perpetual issue of affordable housing and homelessness in Bremerton.

“I definitely do support and see the need for things such as the Navigation Center,” she said. “In general when we talk about homelessness, I think it’s important to be mindful of the wide range of people who find themselves in that circumstance. I know that the city is currently working to implement zoning changes to try and increase the supply of affordable homes. We also need a minimum wage that allows everyone to spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing.”

As Wheat prepares for her first full term, she reflected on the things she has learned since being appointed as a councilmember in January.

“I’ve been holding monthly community meetings in District 4,” Wheat said. “That’s something that I’ve gotten a really positive response from the community about in terms of being accessible. One thing that can be improved upon is the communication that happens between councilmembers as far as building consensus and being collaborative as a body. I’m not afraid to be a voice of representation even if I’m the lone voice on the council. I strive first and foremost to be a councilmember of and for the people.”

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