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Friends, colleagues mark end of Aitchison’s term

POULSBO — One of Dr. Seuss’ famous characters was known for saying, “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.”

Wednesday night, another person known for speaking for the trees, waters, animals and people of Little Norway was honored. The Dec. 17 meeting marked the end to Jackie Aitchison’s 12 years on council and family, friends and fellow council members marked the occasion with gifts and thanks.

Though she’s spent the last 12 years as an elected official, Aitchison has actually served the City of Poulsbo for 15 years. Mayor Donna Jean Bruce presented her with a certificate of appreciation and also with a 15-year service pin — an honor usually reserved for city employees.

“We’ve never given one of these to anyone except city staff,” Bruce explained.

Aitchison said over the 15 years she’s been involved with city politics, she’s seen Poulsbo change in many ways. When she was elected in 1991, the city’s population was 4,800 whereas today it is more than 7,000.

She also joked that she listed among her years on council five Planning Directors, five stop lights added in the city, five Bremerton Sun reporters and four Herald reporters.

“It’s certainly been one heck of a ride,” Aitchison commented.

Throughout the evening, Aitchison was lauded as a champion for environmental issues and community members.

“She’s the one person who has certainly inspired me and my family to be more involved in the community,” said Luis Barrantes. “The rest of the council, you have a lot of shoes to fill in the legacy that Jackie has left in this community.”

“She is a person of integrity,” added community member Stephen Augustine. “She has given me hope and made me feel that I was represented.”

Peg Tillery of the WSU Master Gardeners program commented that she has admired her sister’s efforts and appreciated her advocacy for issues like the Raab Park Youth Garden and other local parks.

“Even if she weren’t my sister, I would be so honored to know her,” Tillery commented, her voice breaking with emotion. “She has done so many things for this community.”

A group of community members and her fellow council members also presented Aitchison with a plaque that will accompany cedar trees to be planted at Nelson Park in her name.

“There will be a grove of trees in your honor,” commented Kathy Byrne-Barrantes.

Even fellow council members, both past and present, said they’d miss Aitchison sitting at the council table. Former Councilwomen Sherri Appleton and Chris Endresen (now the North Kitsap County Commissioner) were on hand to thank Aitchison for taking their advice to run for an open seat on council in 1991.

“Jackie, I was here for your first council meeting and I wanted to be here for your last,” Appleton commented. “And I want you to know that there is life after council and I’m an example.”

Fellow council members also took the opportunity to thank Aitchison for her years on council.

“We haven’t always agreed but we’ve always agreed to disagree,” Councilman Jim Henry commented with a smile.

“I’ve enjoyed working with you,” added Councilman Dale Rudolph. “I’ve never questioned your integrity or your efforts.”

Though Aitchison is leaving council chambers, she already has plans to stay active. Earlier this year, she was elected to the Master Gardener’s Board and was asked to serve as project manager for the Liberty Bay Foundation’s nearshore project. She was also recently appointed to a five-year term on the Kitsap Regional Library Board of Trustees and was asked by Bruce Wednesday night if she’d consider serving on the Poulsbo Tree Board if a vacancy came available.

“I’ll submit my application,” Aitchison replied with a laugh.

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