Letter to the Editor: In Praise of Debbi Lester

Posted by on December 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Mayor Debbi Lester delivering proclamation.

As my friend Sharon says, politics ain’t beanbag, and it certainly ain’t beanbag on little Bainbridge Island. What I’ve watched, for the past few years, is an awful and depressing fight between community activists/councilmembers who dislike city government and community activists/councilmembers who despise those who take this position.

This kind of fight doesn’t have to be bad. Indeed, good things often come from the clash between pro-and anti-government positions. But the Bainbridge version of this fight is really awful, since it’s rarely about ideas or principles. We tend to fight about people. More precisely, we fight (or just proclaim) about who is good or bad, who is polite or rude, or whose social connections make them the right “type” to serve in city government.

News flash to my fellow Islanders. There are no tea party monsters hiding behind the bushes. Nor are there brave knights coming to City Hall on horseback, in January, to valiantly oppose them. Local politics is complicated, messy, and boring. The issues do not lend themselves to ideological fights or partisan positions. Good councilmembers show up to meetings, week after week, despite their other engagements. They forge alliances with people, even people they don’t like, and they respond to their constituents. They ask tough questions, even when those questions are resented, because it’s other people’s money that they are spending. We don’t talk much about these things when we talk about Bainbridge politics. It’s a shame. These are the things that are important.

Which brings me to Debbi Lester, whose last day on city council is tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about Debbi’s four years of service, and how to properly praise her. There have been major achievements, to be sure, and big things we should be grateful for. Revitiazling the non-motorized transportation committee and getting more trails and bike lanes built. Being a key player in the ferry settlement, and making sure the settlement money is spent on waterfront improvements. Helping, through her work on two transportation committees, to get millions of dollars in transportation funding for Bainbridge Island. Working with her colleagues to obtain utility rate reductions. Demanding high standards of ethical and professional conduct in the office of city manager.

But I think we should remember Debbi for the everyday things, the mundane stuff that made her an exceptional councilmember. Debbi worked hard. She always showed up, and she always showed up prepared. She educated herself about issues. She asked city staff lots of questions. She encouraged people to be politically involved, and helped orient those new to government. She used her position to praise people, defend them, and thank them for their contributions. She was the brunt of some whopper political attacks and personal betrayals, but she refused to be deterred. (In fact, they made her stronger and more committed.) She walked around downtown, every day, to make sure things looked good. She planted flowers when no one was looking. And she brought more funk to Bainbridge.

Thanks Debbi. You did great. And you are so appreciated.

—Kim Hendrickson

Note from the Editors: Inside Bainbridge would like to second this statement of appreciation to Debbi Lester, an extraordinary and extraordinarily committed member of our community. We thank you for your dedicated service and for always doing more than you had to, with heart.

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Letter to the Editor: In Praise of Debbi Lester, 4.0 out of 5 based on 8 ratings

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4 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: In Praise of Debbi Lester”

  1. Elizabeth Gadbois says:

    Well said, Kim! Thank you Debbie, for your smile, your courage, your sense of humor and your even temper. Thank you for advocating passionately for the arts, farms, trees and little tiny parks that help make our island so special. You are a treasure.

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  2. Phil Hendrickson says:

    Thank you Debbie for your thoughtfulness and attention to improving the quality of life for our community. So many times while I have been enjoying coffee and toast with my family at Blackbird Bakery on weekends (my days off) I have often seen you, swooping in on errands of community business like supporting the arts, our downtown, local parks or other issues that sustain the quality of life here on our island but are so easy to leave to someone else. Debbie, thank you for being that someone else who thinks about flowers along Winslow Way, community art, additional parks, liveaboards, affordable housing and bike lanes along our roads.

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  3. Donald Jackson says:

    Thanks Debbie for your 4 years of service to Bainbridge Island!

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  4. Mahakala says:

    Why would the arthor call the Tea Party monsters? Is it because the believe in limited government and are against excessive taxation? I would love to hear her explanation.

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