Coppola announces bid for second term as Port Orchard mayor
By JEFF RHODES
Port Orchard Independent Editor
May 10, 2011 · Updated 10:51 AM
Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola laments what a weak economy prevented him from accomplishing during his first term in office but believes he’s laid a solid foundation for the second term he’s decided to seek.
Coppola formally announced his re-election bid on Tuesday morning while speaking to the Port Orchard Rotary Club.
He plans a full-fledged campaign fundraiser on May 16 at Amy’s by the Bay.
“I love this job. It’s the perfect job for me,” Coppola said. “The things I do well are exactly what you need to be the mayor of a community this size.”
Most notably, he believes his experience running a business equips him to manage a city far better than a career politician could.
“In our form of government, a guy can get elected based purely on his personal charisma,” Coppola said. “But then he gets in office and has no idea how to get anything done.
“Government isn’t exactly like a business because its aims are different,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean government can’t be run in a businesslike manner. Port Orchard is the only city in Kitsap County and one of the very few in the state that isn’t in dire financial straits right now, and that’s because we run it like a business.”
Coppola, 60, is the owner of Wet Apple Publishing, and when he was first elected in 2007, the mayor’s office was only a part-time job — with a salary to match.
Coppola ruffled feathers by successfully lobbying the city council to elevate the post to full-time status and pay him accordingly.
“A few people complained that I wanted to change the rules in the middle of the game,” he recalled, “or that we should have put the question to a public vote. And I understood their concerns. But most people recognized that Port Orchard is a much different place than it used to be, and it needs a full-time person at the top.”
Ironically, Coppola himself believes the city’s continued evolution may soon render his position obsolete.
Earlier this year, he speculated that once the city has finished annexing its entire urban growth area, it will need to convert over to a city manager-type of government.
“At some point in the not-too-distant future, both in terms of population and land area, we’re going to be the biggest metropolitan area in Kitsap County,” Coppola said. “When that happens, Port Orchard is going to need a full-time administrator. As mayor, I handle a lot of of those duties now — in addition to my other responsibilities.”
Those include sitting on a number of local boards and attending meetings throughout the region.
“There are weeks I could put in 40 hours and never set foot in City Hall,” he said.
Ultimately, Coppola believes Port Orchard should phase out the position of mayor and transition over into a city-manager arrangement. In the meantime, he believes he has Port Orchard in a strong position to move forward.
“When I came into office, I had a lot of bigs plans,” he said. “But two things happened. First, I didn’t realize how many problems we had to fix first. And second, the economy went into the tank, which made getting anything done much more difficult than it should have been.”
“Don’t get me wrong — I’m very proud of what we actually have accomplished,” he said. “I just think there’s a lot more left to do.”
Coppola said if not for the nationwide recession, for example, downtown Port Orchard’s revitalization would be much farther along than it is.
Likewise, the city’s first attempt to annex the Bethel Corridor came up short, but he’s confident it will win approval this summer.
“When that happens,” Coppola said, “it will bring $1.4 million annually into the city’s general fund in taxes, and we’re committed to spending at least half of that to widen the road. Plus, we’ll be looking aggressively for every other funding source we can find. When that project is finished, it’s going to totally reshape Port Orchard.”
Coppola said there have been many highlights in his first term, but undoubtedly the low point was his arrest for driving under the influence one year ago this week.
“That was the most humiliating experience of my life, and I’ve definitely learned from it,” he said. “I understand there are people who will forever hold it against me, and I can’t change that. But I think most people understand that we’re all human and we make mistakes.
“I would hope the voters judge me according to how well I do the job they elected me to do,” he said, “and not for a mistake I made in the middle of the night.”
No one has yet announced they will run against Coppola.
Candidates must file for office by June 10.