BREMERTON — Bremerton City Councilman Greg Wheeler announced March 2 his campaign for mayor in the 2017 election.
In addition to mayor, four council positions — those of Patricia Sullivan, Jerry McDonald, Dino Davis and Eric Younger — will also be on the ballot. Candidates will file required papers in May. The primary election will be on Aug. 1, the general election on Nov. 7. The mayor is full-time and is paid $107,000 a year.
Wheeler, 57, attended Central Kitsap High School and worked at the shipyard before retiring. He said other than five years spent in the Navy, he’s been a lifelong resident of Bremerton and has lived in District 4, which he represents on the council, for almost 30 years. He said he’s lived in the house he shares with his wife, Sunny, since June 1987.
Wheeler has served on the City Council for eight years, and served as board president from 2013-15.
“I’ve been fortunate,” Wheeler said. “I’m retired from the shipyard … (My wife and my) family’s needs were taken care of. We were — are — in good health. Financially, we’ve been fortunate, we can afford to give back.
“City politics is the best way that we both felt, my wife and I, to contribute back to the city that has given so much for us. We are very invested in the future of Bremerton and wanted to make sure we were helping shape that future.”
He said he decided to run for mayor because “I see a lack of leadership from our mayor (Patty Lent). She has gutted the parks department and then added staff in her own department. I think that shows poor leadership. It doesn’t set the right example when you’re asking other departments to cut so heavily and do with less for so long, and then to make these hires. It’s poor leadership.”
He said he’s also concerned about the mayor committing city funds to outside entities without council approval, “and then coming in after the money’s been committed and requesting the funds. That, to me, shows a lack of financial understanding of the ways our city works,” he said.
Another concern of his, he said, is the Public Works and Utilities Department. He said that the department, the city’s largest, provides a valuable but expensive service to Bremerton residents.
“I believe that they’re not getting the maximum benefit for the rates they pay,” he said.
One of his top priorities as mayor would be paying proper attention to parks and public safety.
“My focus is clear on what needs to be done. We do need to show more attention to our parks system and our parks staff,” he said. “We need to show more attention to our residential neighborhoods … focus on streets and sidewalks and public safety. I’m determined to improve the public safety in our neighborhoods.”
Also a focus, he said, was improving the business community in Bremerton, and really give businesses an “opportunity to succeed.”
“I have several ideas on how to get that done,” Wheeler said. “I have an MBA, I have an educational understanding about business. I have city council experience, so lots of government experience. Also, in my own small real estate company my wife and I manage — very small, but I do have an understanding.”
Wheeler is about halfway through his term as the District 4 representative; he said if he loses the mayoral race, he will continue to serve the community in that position. However, he said he’s not thinking about losing.
“I’ve enjoyed serving them immensely. I’m looking forward to stepping up that level of service as their new mayor … myself, my team and all of my supporters aren’t looking at (losing). We’re just looking at the campaign and we’re looking at being successful.”
Though his campaign has only just begun, Wheeler said he’s looking forward to earning the support of Bremerton voters and serving as mayor.
“It’s time for a change, it’s time for a fresh perspective,” Wheeler said. “I’m uniquely qualified to get it done. I’m looking forward to this, looking forward to the campaign and, ultimately, winning.”
Michelle Beahm is a reproter with the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.