BREMERTON — The day after the general election was a typically busy one for Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent.
Nov. 8 began with a series of meetings away from her office, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Kitsap Community Resources at the Early Learning Center’s West Hills STEM Academy.
Next came her presence at a regularly scheduled Bremerton City Council meeting. After it ended at 8:30 p.m., Lent finally had time to return a phone call from Kitsap News Group to report she had conceded the race for mayor to city councilman Greg Wheeler.
“I want to congratulate Greg,” Lent said during a phone interview. “I wanted to wait until we had that second count today, and when his lead was extended, I felt it was appropriate to congratulate him and let him know it will be a smooth transition.
“I told him if there is anything he wanted me to work on or turn over to him, to let me know.”
Lent said she will use the remaining five weeks in office to get her office ready for her successor.
She noted her lengthy list of organizations of which she’s a member. “I’m not certain the new mayor wants to continue any of that, but I want to at least have my notebooks and paperwork in place so that it’s easy for him to pick up.”
Lent said she takes comfort in knowing city staff will continue to work to get homeless people off the streets and into a shelter, and will help the city’s veterans.
Lent, 73, lost her bid for a third term as mayor to Wheeler, a 57-year-old Puget Sound Naval Shipyard retiree and Navy veteran, by a 55.1 percent to 44.8 percent margin. In updated results released Nov. 9 by the Kitsap County Elections Division, Wheeler tallied 3,416 votes, Lent 2,779.
Lent said her opponent had a built-in advantage during the campaign that he effectively used: “When you don’t have a job, you can devote every day to knocking on doors,” Lent said.
She also shared one regret: “I also feel that it became a partisan race — a mayor of a city is not partisan. I felt badly throughout the debates and the campaign that it did become partisan, and that sometimes takes away from the person who’s going to be at the helm.”
Wheeler: a different campaign
The mayor-elect said he knew at the outset that to win, he’d need to run a different kind of campaign.
“We were running against a lot of the political establishment, and we knew it would be an uphill fight,” Wheeler said. “Our victory means that the people who live in Bremerton want a change from the status quo.”
Wheeler said creating a vibrant economy with affordable housing, as well as preserving access to a community hospital, resonated with voters.
“We are going to create a city government that values innovation and efficiency, and a fiscally responsible and transparent government of the people,” he said.
A difficult defeat
Lent, a former Kitsap County commissioner who was first elected as mayor in 2009, said her electoral loss stings.
“My regret is that I had some very specific things that we were going to do to enhance the city,” Lent said Nov. 9. “As much as I love Bremerton, it’s always hard to let go.”
She equated the separation to a teenager heading off to college — packing up and leaving an empty bedroom. “That’s kind of how I feel inside, that I’m walking away from something that I absolutely love,” Lent said.
“My heart is in everything that I’ve done and the decisions I’ve made. But I’m so proud of having served. As I look around at the people in place, [with] the things that have transpired, it’s pretty exciting to see where the city of Bremerton is today.”
The energetic two-term mayor said she’ll continue serving as a member of the Bremerton Lions, of which she’s been a member since 1995. “I’m also a lifelong member of the Navy League,” she said. “That has a place in my heart that will never go away.”
Lent said she would also like to retain her position on the boards of Kitsap Mental Health and the Kitsap Community Foundation.
“I feel like I still have a lot of energy and compassion for the things that come out of those different committees,” she said. “All of them make a tremendous difference in the community.”
But first, Lent said it’s time for a rest and a walk on the beach. Lent and her husband Doug plan to take a Thanksgiving-week vacation trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico for “a little beach time, sunshine and lots of walks.”
When she returns, Lent said family, including her eight grandchildren and “two greats,” will take center stage in her life. And if there are additional spare minutes in her day, she’ll fit in some home remodeling projects.
Then it’s back to work.
“I think I’ll take a look at where I might fit best to continue being creative in the city of Bremerton.”
The mayor of Bremerton is elected to a four-year term and is the full-time, salaried chief executive officer of the city. The mayor is paid $107,004 a year, according to the 2017 city budget.