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Leavenworth mayor speaks to PO chamber

The Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce got a straightforward lesson in Downtown Revitalization 101 when it invited Melvin Wyles, mayor of Leavenworth, to pay a visit.

The chamber invited Wyles to come tour Port Orchard and speak at a luncheon on Thursday. After meeting the town, Wyles praised the area for its potential, especially the hospitality of residents and business owners.

“The people have been extremely kind to me,” Wyles said. “Any way to help, if they could, they did.”

Wyles offered a blunt but optimistic assessment of Port Orchard’s future, encouraging local business owners and city officials to make a decision, and get behind it entirely.

“Make a decision of one final vote. Whichever one comes out first, you band together and you fight,” Wyles said. “Once there is even one vote, cast everything aside and that’s where you want to head, or I tell you what, you’ll never go anywhere.”

Wyles saw Leavenworth transformed from an empty town — he said he could fire a cannon down Main Street on the Fourth of July and not hit anyone — to a thriving tourist destination, pulling in 1.4 to 1.7 million visitors every year.

The town came together after downtown merchants pushed for a Bavarian style architecture — the buildings actually look Swiss — and enocuraged the rest of the area to follow suit.

The town then began scheduling various summer, fall and winter festivals that drew in more crowds.

The success is not based mainly on the choice of Bavarian style, Wyles said.

“I did not come over here to sell you a Bavarian theme or any kind of theme,” he said.

The architecture of Leavenworth does suit the area, sitting under the snowy Cascade Mountain range and giving it a very Swiss feel, but Wyles credits Leavenworth’s success to the town banding together and moving forward.

And the time to move forward, Wyles said, is now.

“You’ve got some stuff here, and how you develop it, it’s up to you,” he said. “But every minute that you waste, you’re dead meat.”

Those attending the talk seemed to agree, giving him a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

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