By BOB SMITH
Kitsap News Group
PORT ORCHARD — Allan Martin found himself at a career crossroad after narrowly losing the general election in 2008 for Washington state treasurer. As assistant state treasurer, he would soon be out of a job in Olympia, which for him, begged the question: What’s next?
With another decade of a productive career ahead of him, Martin reached out to longtime City of Port Orchard Treasurer Kris Tompkins, who had plans to retire in 2009. Martin and Tompkins had worked together on projects as members of the Washington Municipal Treasurers Association.
With the 28-year office holder’s endorsement, Martin was quickly hired by the Port Orchard City Council in June 2009 as the city’s new treasurer.
“After leaving the (state) administration, I had to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Martin said as he reflected on his tenure at City Hall. “So, I weighed what would be fun and where I could put what I’d learned into practice.
“I felt then, and I feel today, that Port Orchard really is a diamond in the rough.”
Martin’s journey to his final career stop was circuitous. An eastern Washington native from Wenatchee and a self-described “hometown guy,” he first studied at Wenatchee Valley College, then Central Washington University in pursuit of a degree in mortuary science. Living above the Jones &Jones Funeral Home in Wenatchee while working in the funeral business, the Washington State Funeral Directors Association took notice and paid his way through mortuary college in the Bay Area.
“In the funeral business, it really is about people helping people,” he said. “While I had empathy and sympathy for people, my emphasis and interests were more on the business end.”
With the rapid consolidation of the funeral industry by large corporations, Martin had a decision to make at age 31: go the corporate route or find something else to do.
“I was more of the hometown guy who believed in the neighbor helping neighbor model. I could see that wasn’t going to continue.”
After a number of years in community banking and equipped with a Washington State University degree in social sciences, Martin accepted an offer from Chelan County treasurer Bob May to work in his department as a subordinate. May brought in his former college classmate to eventually take over the county treasurer’s role after his retirement a few years later. Elevated to that top position, Martin later was twice elected as county treasurer.
Then in 1998, his friend Mike Murphy, who was Thurston County treasurer, ran for the state’s top Treasury post and won. He asked Martin to join his administration in Olympia.
Second in command of the state’s checkbook, he decided to run as the retiring Murphy’s successor as state treasurer in 2008. His 60,000-vote loss to Democrat Jim McIntire subsequently led him to Port Orchard.
After joining City Hall that next year, Martin tackled issues related to inefficiencies that would ultimately lead to better, more convenient services for city residents.
“The issues and problems are different today than they were in 2009,” he said. “I found there were a lot of inefficiencies we could go after: updating procedures, policies and the way we did business. The bulk of my time in the early days was improving our services. I instigated the use of credit cards for utility payments, which for this town was a big leap forward.
“Online utility billing was put into place. We outsourced utility bills to a company that prints the statements. We went to online business licensing through the State of Washington, which is pretty much the standard way we do business now.”
Martin recalled two challenging dilemmas — one was a project, the other an economic climate. Locally, regionally and nationally (subsequently globally), 2009 was the beginning of what’s now known as the Great Recession.
When he arrived at the city, the McCormick Woods annexation effort was underway. Combined with the Bethel annexation, the city’s population nearly tripled.
“We really didn’t know in those days where we were going to end up,” he recalled. “The estimates I inherited for expenses against McCormick Woods were impacted greatly by that. It was a huge challenge.
“When I got here, there was just a hair under 5,000 people in Port Orchard. It’s about 14,000 today. We had to quickly build the city’s staff infrastructure to carry a city that size. From my perspective, we’ve been pretty successful at being able to absorb and adapt to being a city the size it is today.”
The challenges of providing adequate services to a growing community continue today, he said. Like it or not, Port Orchard will grow significantly over the next two decades. Martin said it’s critical the city keep pace.
“Development and growth in this area are going to come — fast,” he said.
“The invitation doesn’t have to be too loud. If you don’t have the policy infrastructure in place to channel that in a direction that meets your needs as a community, those decisions are going to be made for the sake of expediency. Then it becomes a problem.
“We’ve worked hard in addressing that in all our decisions on the administrative side. Twenty years from now, they’re going to talk about the sleepy town Port Orchard once was. That’s hard to believe, but it’s going to happen.”
To assimilate that growth, Martin said his department and Nick Bond, the city’s community development director, and Mark Dorsey, public works director, have “worked really hard” with each of the three mayors who have served during his tenure as treasury head.
Martin said his relationship with the mayors has been respectful and productive.
“All three mayors always heard me out and listened to me. They always treated me with a great deal of professionalism and respect. They all have had the best interests of Port Orchard in mind when we had our conversations.”
He also said the City Council today is in more of a policy role, which Martin noted is critical toward creating and managing good civic policy.
“It’s not so much council people saying, ‘Here’s what I think’ or ‘I’d like to see this done.’ Now, you’re seeing, ‘We should’ or ‘What we’re trying to do.’ It’s all part of that iteration I feel good about. The policy people should set the policy direction, listen to the public and ask their department heads to perform to that level. And the department heads have the obligation to say, ‘This is what I need to succeed.’
“I think when you get all that working together, you can make a lot of good things happen.”
When Noah Crocker of the City of Yelm replaces Martin at the end of September, the retiring city treasurer said he plans to stay busy — but at a somewhat slower pace.
He and his wife Sue have a boat at their home on Fox Island and a beach house at Seaside, Oregon. Martin said he’s looking forward to rebuilding a recently purchased boat: “I’ve always wanted to do that, and I bought one to do that.”
But family comes first, the affable public official said. He and his wife have three grown children — Anna, Travis and John, and four grandchildren, with one more on the way.