Coppola and Matthes need to talk
By ROBERT MEADOWS
Port Orchard Independent columnist
December 9, 2011 · Updated 12:23 PM
The election of a new mayor in Port Orchard creates the need for a good transition from Mayor Lary Coppola to Mayor-elect Tim Matthes.
Matthes benefits from having some relatively contentious issues behind him, but needs to get up to speed on issues that are on the front burner as well as on the horizon.
During Coppola’s first campaign for the office in 2007, he thought his predecessor was wrong in believing that the mayor’s responsibilities called for a full-time position with commensurate compensation rather than part-time.
He learned pretty quickly that the person doing the job in the previous term of office was right. It isn’t a part-time job, no matter how good you are at managing and delegating tasks.
The City Council changed the position to full-time and raised the pay, which caused unhappiness among some people whether for good reason or not.
While Coppola caught some flak for this change and the pay raise, Matthes won’t have to deal with it.
The annexation of McCormick Woods eliminated the surcharge paid to the city’s water utility by residents of that area, causing the water rates of all city residents to rise to cover the utility’s operating costs.
Again, some people were unhappy when this result of annexation caused them to pay more. Whether right or not, they had benefited from lower rates because of the previous surcharge.
Matthes won’t have to deal with that issue, but will need to handle the issue of raising rates again to provide sufficient funding for the utility’s capital requirements. Maintaining the system involves more than paying the daily operating costs.
It won’t be the mayor’s decision to raise water utility rates, but as the executive he will be required to provide the council adequate information upon which to make their decision.
This task of informing the council is an important part of the mayor’s job, since doing it well benefits both the council and members of the public who wonder what is happening and why.
Coppola came into office hoping to get the Bethel Corridor annexed and begin its needed road improvements.
He may have felt some frustration at not getting farther along on this project, but he could only go as fast as the slowest among the group of people who could make it happen.
Matthes will need to manage the next phase. We’ll see how far it proceeds during his term in office.
Now that the Bethel Corridor annexation is well on its way to completion, the mind-set of the city’s leaders may have to change a little. Bay Street will no longer be all of what people picture when they think of Port Orchard.
Both the older section of town along Bay Street and the newer area along the Bethel Corridor need attention.
Projects that are out on the horizon include two which may benefit Bay Street — a new library and a parking garage.
Both these projects are costly, so despite their importance to economic activity along Bay Street they can hardly be expected to be completed soon.
Improving the roadways along the Bethel Corridor is similarly important to economic development in Port Orchard — and, of course, costly.
Coppola accomplished a lot in his efforts to put his vision of Port Orchard into effect, but his job isn’t done yet.
Matthes will be handling the mayor’s job for the next four years, and will need to have a good idea of what Coppola had in mind, what he did, and what obstacles and opportunities seem to be ahead.
Coppola’s job isn’t done until he hands everything over to Matthes, including his best judgment about what lies ahead and how to get where he hopes the city will go.
Matthes will naturally have his own ideas about the way to go, but we can hope that he will absorb all Coppola has to offer before choosing his course.
The formal transition ends when Matthes takes office, but the two men probably ought to be talking to each other quite a bit afterwards.
Coppola can offer a wealth of useful knowledge, and Matthes can do best for the city if he taps that source often.
Bob Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.