Candidates for PO mayor identify priorities

Port Orchard Mayor Robert Putaansuu, unlike four years ago, faces a challenger in the general election Nov. 7 in Rawlins Maye, who said he’s not a politician but more of a “concerned citizen.”

Putaansuu has served in Port Orchard politics for much of the 21st century, first serving as a City Council member before being elected mayor in 2015. Having lived most of his life in Port Orchard, including graduating from South Kitsap High School in 1983, he said he is ready to continue serving the city. “I understand the needs of our community and actively work to make Port Orchard the best it can be,” he said. “The passion I bring to the job each and every day sets me apart as we work to address our ever-changing world and the challenges we face.”

A Costco supervisor, Maye said he carries over 25 years of experience ranging from food service to retail. He believes his skill sets of “self-control, integrity, empathetic listening and honesty” that he has built over the years could now benefit the community if elected mayor. “I will make it my priority to be approachable, service-minded, and work with our citizens and local government to solve issues respectively and fair through conflict resolution.”

Each candidate was asked what their top five priorities are.

Putaansuu said his primary focus is on the increasing issues of crime, drugs and homelessness, issues he said plague the community.

His solutions side on the goal of increased enforcement, especially for the former two, saying he will make a further commitment to get more officers in Port Orchard. However, he also continued to state his belief that further change should be encouraged at the state level and that Washington needs to show bigger investments in tackling behavioral health services and substance abuse.

“Changes in state law are needed to allow our police officers to do their jobs,” he said. “As the president of the Association of Washington Cities last year, I had the opportunity to meet personally with the governor and share with him some of the statistics and the effects of recent legislative changes related to police pursuits and how they are impacting Port Orchard.”

Increasing drug usage and crime do not pop up on the top priorities for Maye, who instead identified the over-development of the city as his top concern, stating he believes Port Orchard should be unmatched to neighboring towns and cities but is crippled by failing infrastructure. “I believe that we should be responsible enough to have a stronger infrastructure to withstand such rapid growth in our community.”

Homelessness does come up next for the challenger and is one of the only similarities in priorities between the candidates. However, Maye criticized city leadership for not being directly engaged. “Homelessness should not be overlooked. Our homeless citizens should be properly evaluated and sorted out according to their mental health, personal views and financial education.”

Maye said his final three priorities include addressing a lack of transparency in city government, focusing and developing youth and working to better what he calls an outdated water and sewage systems. While not naming names, he said, “Our leaders can and should be more approachable and relatable when it comes to the concerns of our citizens and business owners by immediate follow-ups.”

Putaansuu rounded out his list with the issues of traffic and impacts from growth, championing soon-to-come projects as reasons to keep him in office. “The city is committed to making necessary improvements to our roadways and in particular the Bethel Corridor,” he said. “The first of several roundabout projects on Bethel will happen next year followed by the Bethel Phase I project in 2025.”