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A heartfelt thank-you… after 26 years

It is with mixed emotions that I write what may be my last column for the Business Journal, for what is our 26th anniversary edition. As you probably know by now, we have sold this paper to the E. W. Scripps Company, which also publishes the Kitsap Sun.

We were approached last September by Brent Morris, publisher of The Sun, about our interest in selling. While The Sun has been our printer for more than a decade, this wasn’t their first overture. Our original conversation about selling to Scripps actually happened about nine years ago, and another about three years ago. Like any prudent businessperson, I listened to what they had to say, but our interest in selling at those times was minimal. Ironically, we had been approached just prior to Brent’s contact by two other publishers interested in acquiring the Business Journal, and entered into some semi-serious discussions with both of them.

All these inquiries came at a critical time in our business. My wife Dee and I were doing our strategic planning for 2014, and evaluating our options. With the successful WestSound Home & Garden Magazine entering its eighth year of publication, we had decided to expand the high-quality magazine side of our business — which is where our publishing industry roots lie, and is actually how Dee and I met. Just last month we published a new, high-quality, twice-yearly magazine for the Kitsap County Homebuilders Association — Build & Remodel of the Kitsap Peninsula. When Brent contacted us, that was already in the pipeline, and we were exploring other possibilities as well — a couple of which are currently under development.
So the question became, “What about the Business Journal?” It’s no secret that the newspaper industry has undergone massive changes in the digital age — and we’ve kept pace with those, and remained profitable. However, taking the Business Journal to the next level would be a challenge that would tax the resources of our small company, minimizing what we could do to move the rest of it forward.

Brent is dedicated to taking the Business Journal to the next level, and Scripps has committed the resources to make that leap — which made the decision to sell much easier. Of the three possibilities for new ownership, we felt very strongly that Scripps offered the best opportunity to vastly improve what we had spent 26 years building. Ultimately, that’s why we chose them as our buyer.

Although we have been leaders in the digital publishing space from early on — ours was the first newspaper in the state to launch a Website, back in 1998 — I feel very strongly Wet Apple needs to continue moving aggressively in the digital direction. After leaving the Port Orchard Mayor’s office at the beginning of 2012, I returned to lead that evolution. However, after stepping away from the paper as Mayor, I decided I didn’t want to return to actively editing, and hired Tim Kelly, who has done a great job.

In addition to recent upgrades of the Business Journal Web site, we also added the daily emailer, and smartphone capability. In the near future, you will see a much more robust and interactive Web site for WestSound Home & Garden, with extensive use of video, smartphone accessibility, blogs, and other major improvements.

Running this paper for the past 26 years has been an absolutely amazing experience. I’ve learned so much about our community — and its movers and shakers — both in business and politically. It has afforded me a forum for my own views, many of which have been influenced by the actions of those movers and shakers, as well as extraordinary access to congressional representatives, state legislators, local government and public agency officials. That access has also shaped my personal views on how our governments and public agencies function — both good and bad.

I’ve learned firsthand why the best and brightest people often refuse to run for elective office, and how vicious the political process can be. There’s no privacy, and politicians — and their partisan supporters — often go to extreme lengths to hold on to — or seize — power without regard to the personal, financial, or long-term career damage their sleazy tactics cause their opponents. The end justifies the means. As a community, we all suffer for that, and it often results in our being governed by egotistical inferiors with personal agendas, who are totally clueless about the concept of “Servant Leadership.” However, since we allow it to happen by not stepping up, we get the quality of government we deserve.  

So what now? I have absolutely no intention of just fading away, and will continue writing car reviews, which may not appear here but in The Sun, and on my Web site (www.autoreviewers.com) as well as expressing my personal political views on the West Sound Politics blog (www.westsoundpolitics.blogspot.com). I’m ready — personally and professionally — to take on a new challenge that’s a good fit for my news, communications, economic development, private sector and/or government management experience, and actively seek the “right” opportunity.

Finally, I want to express a humble “Thank You,” to our readers, writers, and our staff — Steve Horn, Kris Lively, Greg Piper, Rodika Tollefson, and Tim Kelly — but more importantly, to our advertisers. They believed in our mission of being a vocal advocate for the local business community and its views, and have supported this paper with their advertising dollars for the past 26 years. Without them, none of this would have ever been possible. Please accept my heartfelt and respectful gratitude.

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