PO mayor uses Facebook to settle tourism beef
February 12, 2009 · Updated 11:06 AM
Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola’s upcoming meeting with officials from the Kitsap Peninsula Visitors and Convention Bureau is the product of an encounter on the Facebook Web site.
“I will be meeting with the Visitor’s Bureau to determine how we proceed from here with them,” Coppola said. “Recently, we haven’t gotten a lot of value from that relationship.”
In past years, Port Orchard has contributed $30,000 to the KPVCB for tourism support, but declined to allocate the funds in the 2009 budget.
“They weren’t treating us very well,” Coppola said. “They would bring in travel writers on the Bainbridge ferry, show them around the island and then go to Poulsbo for lunch. They would head down to Bremerton and show them around, take them to Anthony’s for dinner and put them on the Bremerton-Seattle ferry.
“Of all the cities,” he said, “we were contributing the greatest amount, but we weren’t getting anything back.”
Port Orchard originally planned to use the money, which comes from the lodging tax, to hire a tourism director, but fell short of the needed amount. The funds were then added to Coppola’s salary, with the understanding that he would perform tourism duties.
Even in this capacity, Coppola was unable to attend the annual KPVCB luncheon on Feb. 4 due to a scheduling conflict, as well as the conviction that, “They weren’t really making Port Orchard feel welcome.”
As a result, he responded briskly to a Facebook post from KPVCB Director of Tourism Development Jean Boyle that he would be missed at the luncheon.
Coppola then added his own post that read, “Considering how the KPVCB hierarchy has openly joked about Port Orchard and wondered out loud just why we’d want to be there, I’m sure we won’t be missed — just our money.”
Boyle then responded wit,h “We have always, and will continue to, promote all the wonderful communities and attractions on Kitsap as part of what makes Kitsap the wonderful place it is. You’ll be missed.”
Facebook is a “social networking” Web site, which connects people in a lighthearted way. So Coppola’s next response is somewhat out of character compared to the usual posts.
“Not to be argumentative, but that’s difficult to accept when our representatives personally witness the city being the butt of jokes, and open ridicule by board members,” he wrote. “The KPVCB has a LOT to prove to Port Orchard if it ever expects to receive our future support.”
Coppola and Boyle then “took it offline” and set up the Feb. 24 lunch meeting, which will take place at a Port Orchard restaurant and include Boyle and new KPVCB President Linda Thurrot.
Boyle said she and Coppola had a “pleasant conversation, and we agreed to sit, and talk and brainstorm. We have the same interests at heart, which is to promote the entire area.”
Boyle said that one of Facebook’s strengths is its ability to facilitate informal conversation. She said the KPVCB doesn’t deliberately exclude Port Orchard, but suggests visits that are appropriate to the client’s request.
“If a writer calls and requests a visit to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge, I consider it a victory to get them to Poulsbo for lunch,” she said. “In that case, they won’t appreciate it if I take them down to Port Orchard. But if someone wants to see Bremerton, or the shipyard, I will suggest that we take the foot ferry over to Port Orchard.”
Boyle said she will not decrease her efforts to promote Port Orchard because the city has opted out its support, but she hopes the KPVCB will receive the funding during the next budget cycle.
“We will need to educate them as to what we have already done,” she said of city officials. “We want to be an umbrella organization that promotes all of Kitsap County and its attractions.”
Coppola joined Facebook in January, with the purpose of interacting with his friends in the automotive industry. It has evolved to include his mayoral role, with entries such as, “Lary is getting set for a day of back-to-back-to-back-to-back meetings, including one with Charlotte (Garrido) and another with PSRC folks,” or “Lary is heading off for another day as a public servant.”
Facebook posts appear in the third person.
Coppola has received a salary boost for his tourism role, which will continue for a six-month period, after which the city council will evaluate the agreement and determine whether it should continue.
So far, Coppola said he has worked toward the establishment of several ventures, including a a year-round indoor farmers’ market and a boat show. And even though he was unable to schedule the KBVCB lunch, he has attended several tourism-related meetings in the past several weeks.
Coppola said that he also was instrumental in acquiring addional funding for Cedar Cove Days, a festival celebrating the work of local author Debbie Macomber that will take place this summer.