Endresen endures two decades of school board meetings

POULSBO — School board member Richard L. “Dick” Endresen’s destiny in public service began the day he was born.

His birth came, “during the Coolidge Administration,” he is fond of saying, on Feb. 12, 1927 — President’s Day — which prompted his mother to give him the middle name “Lincoln.”

Now 78, the lifetime Washingtonian hasn’t left the public eye, having served on the school district’s board of directors since 1984 in what has been the longest political stint of his life.

Endresen is by far the most senior member of the board — he precedes the second longest member, Bethany McDonald, by 12 years — and having served for 20 years on the board gives him a historical perspective the others lack.

“He knows the history of the district better than anybody,” said fellow board member Ed Strickland. “And he’s probably more adept politically than anyone that’s ever been on the board.”

His rationale in running for the school board in 1984 was to improve the district’s buildings, and also its overall funding, by helping to pass voter-approved bonds and levies. What stood in the way, he said, was an organization known as the North Kitsap Taxpayers.

“The district had been plagued by the North Kitsap Taxpayers,” he said. “They helped vote down every bond and levy. And we needed buildings in the worst way.”

But things certainly did change once he was elected. During his tenure, new Wolfle and Breidablik elementary buildings were built, Gordon and Vinland elementaries and Kingston Junior High School were built, buildings were added to North Kitsap High School and the school was partially renovated and major improvements were made to Pearson, Poulsbo and Suquamish elementary schools.

“It warms my heart to think I helped with that,” he said.

Endresen is known on the board for his financial sense, often reminding his fellow members and school administrators that they are “stewards of the taxpayers’ money.” He is never one to beat around the bush on an issue, such as his opposition to the future Kingston High School site, one he claims, “the district will be pouring money down the drain on for years.”

Board president Catherine Ahl said she appreciates Endresen’s honesty, even if its the lone dissenting opinion among the board.

“I think Dick keeps us on our toes,” she said. “Anytime somebody says something you don’t agree with you have to think a little bit.”

His humor, however, also surfaces even during the most heated of debates, as Endresen is never afraid to lighten the mood with a one-liner or a joke, seeing the meeting erupt in a general joviality even amongst an issue’s most ardent opponents.

“You can always count on him for wit and wisdom with a Norwegian touch,” McDonald said.

Endresen, born in Seattle the son of first generation Norwegian immigrants, graduated from Broadway High School in 1945 after a short stint in the Coast Guard.

He went to work for 7-Up in a variety of jobs. His longest employment came, however, with the Hershey’s Company, where he ended up staying for 32 years.

“It was the sweetest job in the world,” Endresen said. “Who’s going to say no to chocolate?”

But he never shied far from the public sector. In the 1950s, he served as president of the North King County Recreation Association, and when he moved to Bainbridge Island in 1968, he became President of the Port Madison Water Company.

Endresen, with his wife Donna, raised five children. Upon retiring in 1980, they moved to Poulsbo, where his pursuit of politics picked up.

Endresen was appointed to the planning commission, where he served for 15 years, and was also appointed to the city council for a year and a half due to a member’s absence.

Getting the school district’s facilities modernized and levies passed was a challenge, he said, but one he now feels gratified to have been a part of.

“I am proud to say that not one bond or levy has failed since I’ve been on the board,” Endresen said.

His fifth term on the board ends this year. At this point, he’s uncertain whether he’ll run again.

Regardless, the board will endure his “stewardship of taxpayers’ money” — and his one-liners — for the remainder of the year.

“That’s the only reason I’ve survived,” Endresen said of his sense of humor.

And if he chooses not to run, the thing he said he’ll miss most?

“The best part is having a reserved seat at graduation,” he joked.

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