New manager settles in at Kitsap Conference Center

Arne Bakker is settling in after taking over as general manager of the Kitsap Conference Center a couple of weeks ago. - Kevan Moore
Arne Bakker is settling in after taking over as general manager of the Kitsap Conference Center a couple of weeks ago.
— image credit: Kevan Moore

Arne Bakker took over as the general manager of the Kitsap Conference Center in Bremerton’s Harborside District a couple of weeks ago and is settling into his new role as the busy summer season quickly approaches.

Bakker is originally from Holland, but actually lived in the United States from the time he was 11 to the age of 22 and went to school at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia. After that, he returned to Holland and went to hotel management school there.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I basically knew from the time that I was 16 years old that it was something I was going to go into.”

At one point in his career, Bakker, (whose name is pronounced Arna Bahker -- “Most people, when they see it, say Arnie Baker, so I’m kind of used to it by now,” he says) spent five years working at various hotels in the Caribbean on St. Kitts and St. Martin.

After meeting his wife, Lynda, a Seattle native who attended the University of Washington and still has family in the area, the couple decided to make the Pacific Northwest home and live in Colby.

“I never really planned on coming back here, but then I met my wife,” Bakker said. “I’m really glad I live up here, though, because this it is absolutely gorgeous. I don’t plan on leaving, that’s for sure.”

Most recently, Bakker helped open up a business center in Tacoma for a company called Regus when he heard about an opening with Columbia Hospitality, the firm that runs the conference center and Gold Mountain Golf Course for the City of Bremerton.

“It’s a great management company to work for,” Bakker said. “They are consistently rated in the top 100 companies to work for in the State of Washington. The company values is what is enticing. It’s a company that cares about their employees and it’s a company that cares about their customers.”

The conference center has about 10 full-time employees, known as associates, who answer to Bakker but also has a large list of on-call staff that works as needed.

“I’m a hands-on manager,” Bakker said. “What I’ve seen the last couple of weeks here is the associates we have working here are very engaged and they care. They care about the conference center and they care about the service they provide for our clients and everything else. And that’s always very nice to see. They enjoy it here.”

For Bakker, the best part of the job is making sure that people are happy.

“The biggest thing that you get out of it is customer satisfaction — being able to put on an event where you make everybody happy, where their event goes seamlessly and there are no issues,” he said. “The food is good, they’re enjoying themselves and can really look back at it with great memories. That’s the reward you get out of it without them having to see any of the organization that goes on behind the scenes.”

To that end, Bakker said that he and his staff, which includes an in-house event planner, can line up catering, photographers, ice sculptors and any number of other things that a company, couple or other organization wants or needs.

“It really is an area where you can do just about anything for your clients,” he said.

And when it comes to making customers happy, Bakker said that he and his staff try to keep things as local as possible.

“Obviously there are added costs to bringing in entertainment and everything else from the Seattle area,” he said. “It’s always a factor for us. We try to keep our suppliers from around the area.”

And for those that would like Bakker’s help in lining up a great event at the conference center should do so early.

“The business is fairly constant year-round,” he said. “Just like you have with anything, we have our peaks such as during the holiday season where you have more requests that want to do holiday parties, etc.”

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