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Brown reflects on his service in Kitsap County
It’s hard for Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown to leave his position as District 3 commissioner. But just knowing that the county is operating at a better level than when he took office makes it a bit easier.
“You’d be hard pressed to find a time in recent history when the county was stronger,” Brown said, as he prepares to leave his job Dec. 31. “We’re stronger today than eight years ago when I took office. The county as a whole and the organization has weathered the great recession and we have a more stable economic environment than even before that.”
Brown, who has served on the commission for eight years, announced last month that he is leaving at the end of December to become the executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council in Seattle. He said this week that he plans to move to Seattle and will not maintain a residence in Kitsap County.
In reviewing his time on the commission, Brown said one of the accomplishments he is most proud of are the changes to the department of community development.
“It was broken when I took office,” he said. “There had been eight directors in nine years. The day after I was elected, I worked with the other two commissioners and began interviewing (candidates for) directors.”
Brown said Larry Keeton, the current director of community development, who was the hire then “was the best hire ever.”
“He’s been here seven years and there’s been some real stability to the department,” Brown said.
And, Brown said, the department has worked with its customers —local builders — and realigned the permitting process.
“We have been noted for having one of the best lean management practices in terms of permits,” he said.
Brown said he’s not taking credit for that, however, because it has been a team effort on the part of county staff and all three commissioners.
“As a commission, we’ve been able to provide clear direction and that’s made things happen,” he said.
Too, he said, all departments in the county have worked at hiring and retaining excellent employees, noting that “we have really good people here in Kitsap County.”
Keeton said Brown provided the long term vision that was needed.
“Commissioner Brown is a proven leader with a long-term vision that has come to fruition over his time in office,” Keeton said. “In our case, he’s been a staunch supporter of the department and its culture shift that has resulted in the community viewing it as a partner rather than a roadblock for economic development and environmental programs.”
In thinking about his tenure in office, Brown also points to the work he did to provide leadership in a collaborative way “to get things done.”
“The YMCA in Silverdale is an example of that,” he said. “I’m really proud of that project and I really advocated for it. Getting it built happened because the community came together in a way that we didn’t imagine we could before that.”
He said prior to having the Y, people in his district — the Silverdale area — would only see each other at places like Costco or the mall.
“Now, every time I walk in the Y, I see people of all ages enjoying themselves,” he said. “The impact of that facility is so great.”
By working with community groups and creating a partnership where the Y could lease the property from the county, the project came to completion, he said.
Brown also is proud of the work he’s done to diversify the local economy.
“My dad worked the shipyards,” he said. “But Kitsap County has grown to the point that the Navy isn’t the only employer and industry. And that’s the way it needs to be. We need the private sector jobs so that we are not so dependent on the Navy.”
Working with the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA), Brown said Kitsap County is attracting aerospace and defense employment. He said as the executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, he will continue that work to bring those jobs to Kitsap County.
John Powers, executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance, said Brown’s work in support of economic development has been “stellar.”
“Since I arrived in Kitsap in the fall of 2011, I have known Josh to be well informed and very involved in economic development matters in Kitsap, and throughout the Central Puget Sound Region in his (former)role as chair of the Puget Sound Regional Council,” Powers said.
“He very much understands government’s role in economic development and the value of strong public-private economic development partnerships such as the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance.”
Powers said although Brown was not a member of KEDA’s board, he met with him on a regular basis to brief him on the work and gain his perspective on local and regional matters.
“I also attended the KRCC board meetings on a regular basis and witnessed first-hand Josh’s collaborative leadership style as chair of the council and his appreciation for the contributions the council makes to Kitsap’s intra-governmental collaboration on economic development matters.”
Another project that Brown mentioned as a highlight of his time in office was that his efforts to work out a deal so that the county could take ownership of the Rolling Hills Golf Course.
“We bought it, but we didn’t pay anything for it,” he said. “We worked out a deal where the county leases it back to the employees for 20 years, and the lease payments go to support the Meals on Wheels program throughout the county.”
Meals on wheels was a charitable project that the former golf course owner Don Rasmussen supported, Brown said. And after the 20 years, the golf course will provide a “nest egg” for the county’s parks and recreation department.
While Brown won’t be living in Kitsap County, he’ll be back. His parents live here and he’ll be working for the elected officials in Kitsap County that serve on the Puget Sound Regional Council.
“I’ll have bosses here and I have lots of family and friends here,” he said. “And I’ll always be a North Kitsap Viking.”
There will be a public farewell for Brown at 2 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Kitsap County Administrative Building in Port Orchard, prior to a commission meeting.