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Bek Ashby looks forward to working on council
Bek Ashby took her place as the newest member of the Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
Ashby, who defeated Kim Punt in the November general election, replaced Carolyn Powers in the Position 2 seat. Powers retired after 26 years on the council.
In order to prepare for taking over the council seat, Ashby said she talked to many of the city’s department heads and councilmembers.
“I talked to some councilmembers individually and some together, because it was easier to do that,” Ashby said.
Before her first council meeting, Ashby said she was prepared.
“I was prepared for the items on the council agenda because those are the immediate items,” she said. “I’ve had interaction with department heads because I had some questions about some of the items.”
Ashby said some issues that were important during her campaign have become secondary after the election.
“The bottom line is dollars,” Ashby said. “How can we get the revenue to do the things we need to do.”
Ashby said economic development is a major focus on her list of priorities for the city. She wants local people coming to Port Orchard to shop instead of south to Gig Harbor or north to Silverdale.
She said that the Bethel Corridor, Pottery/Sidney Cooridor, Sedgwick and Mile Hile Drive are where most businesses are located.
Ashby said people from Olalla and Manchester come up Sedgwick Avenue to shop in Port Orchard.
“We’ve got Walmart and Fred Meyer,” Ashby said. “What would compliment them?”
She said she doesn’t know if the city has a unified plan or direction it is working on to bring in more businesses.
“Who is going to invest in downtown Port Orchard?” she said. “We need — in my opinion — a group of champions for Port Orchard who can make things happen. It has to include investors.”
Ashby feels the city is not prepared for development because of traffic issues.
“We do have a traffic plan for Pottery and Sidney Road,” she said. “We need to go back to either the county’s or revise the city’s plan for Bethel and figure out how we can fund it.”
She said the city needs to find out what will attract developers and investors.
“What is going to make people want to put there business here,” Ashby said.
She said economic development is not only retail, but constructing office buildings. Ashby said the city could increase height restrictions and build a three-story office building along the Bethel Corridor.
“We need to study what investors would be willing to do to come here and provide jobs and to provide business services,” Ashby said.
She also feels that traffic issues tie into economic development, along with parks.
“I don’t want to see Port Orchard as a destination like Seaside, Ore.,” Ashby said.
She said she has grandchildren who play in youth soccer tournaments throughout the region and would like the city to work with the county about developing similar venues in the area.
“I would like to see tournaments all over the place,” she said. “The parents go to tournaments and they spend lots of money. Maybe we could utilize our baseball fields, also. A lot of what I think centers around economic development.”
But she knows sustaining funding is needed for any city project.
“Talking about traffic, talking about Tremont Avenue, it will take millions of dollars and we can’t do anything until the state decides what they can do with their funding,” Ashby said.
On the third Tuesday of each month before the council’s work session, Ashby said she will be available from 4-6 p.m. to meet with citizens in the Carolyn Powers’ Conference Room by appointment only.
“I don’t intend to sit there for two hours waiting for someone to show up,” she explained. “That is to fulfill a commitment I made during my campaign to make city government or the council available to people.”
She also invited other councilmembers to join her or to see whether the council could alternate meeting with the public.
“None of the other councilmembers were discouraging to me, but none at this point want to participate,” Ashby noted.
She said citizens are allowed to speak at the beginning and end of each council meeting, but are not allowed to have dialog with the council during citizen comments, work session or committee meetings.
“Typically, committee meetings are not in a format that allows dialog with the public,” Ashby said. “I want to make myself available. If the people want to talk they can talk and I’ll listen.”