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Winters bids, ‘bon voyage’ to port, and public office

POULSBO — A trip to Washington D.C. 20 years ago changed Mike Winters’ outlook on his role in the other Washington.

Seeing a hotbed of political activism in the nation’s capitol, the now Port of Poulsbo Commission President decided to come back to Poulsbo and make a difference in his own community.

“I decided to dedicate a portion of my life to public service because I feel I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” he recalled.

That moment sparked a career of continuous public service that spans two decades but will soon be coming to an end. Winters announced last week that as of Dec. 25, he will be resigning his seat as a Port of Poulsbo Commissioner. Though he’d been considering a break from the public eye for a while, Winters said he finally felt he could step down because the port had reached some important milestones he’s been coaxing along for years.

“I’m just proud of all of it,” Winters said this week looking back at his time at the port. “Everything we’ve done, I think we’ve reached our objectives. I hope it continues into the future.”

Born and raised in the Northwest, Winters came to North Kitsap in 1973 after taking a job at Keyport. Here, he met his wife Colleen, a lifetime Poulsbo resident.

He then spent 1981-1983 in Washington D.C., which inspired him to seek public office when he returned to Poulsbo. He first served on the Board of Adjustment until the city hall shake-up in 1985 that saw the mayor and five council members leave the council. Winters was among those asked by Curt Rudolph, one of the remaining council members, to step up to the council table. Among those he served with were Frank Raab, Mitch Mitchusson, Rudolph and Al Arne.

“I served with heroes,” Winters said of the experience. “They really are heroes. They really had a lot of love — a tremendous amount of love — for this community. I did, too, and we shared our love by putting in a lot of hours and getting a lot of things done.”

With a brief hiatus along the way, Winters served on the Poulsbo City Council until 1994 when he decided not to run for re-election.

During this time, Winters was one of the folks responsible for founding Community Event Productions with Mary Graves and John Mathisen. As president of CEP, Winters was part taking over organization of the annual Third of July festivities, helping the Miss Poulsbo Organization and bringing hydroplanes to Liberty Bay.

“Without (Graves) and (Mathisen), we never would have done it,” Winters recalled of CEP’s work. “I had a vision that I would do it all on my own but that would never have worked.”

In 1998, the lure of public office again took its hold on Winters when there was a vacancy on the Port of Poulsbo Commission.

“I had never been to a port meeting. I didn’t own a boat. I just put in for the job,” Winters explained. “I wasn’t quite ready to get out of public service.”

Winters said he believes he was chosen, like his selection for the city council, for his background in business. As commissioner, Winters said he felt he accomplished a great deal and helped the port reach a level where things are stable. But he still has many dreams for the port he hopes may come true including the expansion of the port district boundaries, the completion of needed dredging, continued work toward ADA compliance and potentially the addition of a business park and/or RV park.

“I hope the next commissioner will have the love for the port and city that I do and will be a visionary,” Winters commented of his biggest dream for the commission.

And while he aims to do some traveling with his new-found leisure time, Winters added that he plans to always stay in the North Kitsap area. Although he does not have his eye on any other public offices, he said the idea isn’t out of the question, either.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll run for county commissioner,” he said with a laugh.

Port of Poulsbo Commissioners Tony DeCarlo and Glenn Gilbert will be responsible to name a new commissioner to the board. They will be discussing how to proceed at their Jan. 6 meeting.

“He’ll be missed,” DeCarlo said of Winters. “But I guess we’ll just have to adapt to having a new commissioner and move on.”

“We’re sad to see him leave but we’re glad he’s going to be able to do what he wants and that’s go some place sunny,” Port Manager Ed Erhardt added. “He did a lot for the port and for the city.”

Whoever is chosen for Winters’ seat would serve one year in the unexpired term before being required to run for re-election in order to stay on board. DeCarlo and Gilbert will also be choosing a new commission president at the next port meeting.

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