Opinion

Abel needs to be a force for growth, change

Kim Abel’s lopsided victory over Port Orchard’s 20-year incumbent Mayor Jay Weatherill last week sent some clear — and perhaps conflicting — messages to both candidates.

That Abel, a relative political newcomer, was able to dispatch a seasoned veteran with relative ease can only be seen as an indication that Port Orchard voters associated Weatherill with the city’s perceived stagnation.

For his part, Weatherill vehemently disputes that characterization. He insisted during the campaign he is all for Port Orchard growing and accomplishing great things, but has been constantly thwarted over the years by county commissioners who didn’t share his vision.

Weatherill said it would be an ironic twist of fate if he were voted out of office just two years after the region elected a development-friendly South Kitsap commissioner in Jan Angel — who publicly endorsed his campaign.

Judging by the results, that argument didn’t resonate with many Port Orchard voters. But it resonates with us. And if Abel is as sharp as she seems, it will strike a responsive chord with her, too.

Like most political challengers, Abel’s campaign emphasized the shortcomings of the incumbent rather than what, if anything, she planned to do differently. To that end, it remains to be seen whether Abel will be a force for positive change or an obstacle to those who seek growth and economic development in Port Orchard.

On the bright side, Abel seems intelligent, enthusiastic and, well ... able. Her positive outlook will be a welcome change from the often-dour Weatherill and she has the potential to become an extremely effective ambassador for the city — something Port Orchard has lacked for years.

But to do so, she needs to be an instrument of change and an advocate for growth, not the malaise with which Weatherill was rightly or wrongly identified. Her victory gives a mandate to move Port Orchard ahead, not stomp on the brakes.

In this, we wish her the best of luck.

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