jacksonDeborah Jackson didn’t plan to run for mayor. She’d considered a run for a different elected office, but until she met with a few supporters of former mayoral candidate Mike Shepherd on Saturday, she hadn’t given a run any thought. But her friends and fellow supporters encouraged her to run. So she thought about it. She consulted her “higher power.” And on Tuesday, the executive of the non-profit Surviving Change made her write-in campaign for mayor of Bremerton official. (Read Mike Shepherd’s comments here.) Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Why did you decide to run for mayor?

I felt like the people weren’t left with a choice. Everybody comes and talks about the committees that they sit on and all the stuff that they’ve done. And then I looked at what did they support? One of the candidates, they used the HUD money to build that, you know, the condominiums, you know what I’m saying? Then it was a hidden agenda for that.

We still got the homeless. We still got the people that didn’t have nowhere to take them to transitition them out of West Park to somewhere else, but then you took that money did that with it and then … welfare for the rich. You know what I’m saying?

There’s so much that I’m passionate about, I just feel the needs and the burdens and the cries. I weep for my community, you know what I’m saying? I advocate. I’m in the courts, I’m in the schools, I’m down in Olympia. I fight for my people. And people don’t listen to us, like we don’t matter, we don’t care, and we don’t have a voice, when we built Bremerton.

We got all these newcomers that came here, and like, we were supposed to be stupid and ignorant. And they come with their ideals and what they think we should have, when they left out what was our real needs. The beautification and the upgrade was fine, but we still should have left our downtown. But did they come and ask the people what they wanted? Instead of like dictating to us? And these people don’t know where they belong. And I want (the people) to feel like I feel now: Free. You have a voice, and you count and you matter, you understand what I’m saying?

Who are you talking about when you say that?

The underrepresented and the havenots.  The people that feel like they don’t have a voice. We have a lot of people saying, “Well they’re going to do what they’re going to do anyway.” I want them to know you don’t let that happen. You do count, you do matter. It’s important for you to have a voice. You don’t let people walk over you. You have a right. And no-one’s out there teaching our people. I teach them every day this. I’m out there teaching my people, educating my people on a day-to-day basis. When I’m talking about my people, I’m not talking about color, you understand what I’m saying? Because when I was coming up, the white people accepted me before my own people did, and that’s still a struggle to this day. Do you hear me?

What’s your plan to mount a successful write-in campaign?

I’m going door-to-door and I’m going to my people. I’ve started already. I’m hitting the areas that everybody’s scared to go to. I register people to vote every day in my office. Since they found out I was running, we’ve been packed. Because I’m a people person, I belong to the people.

Why are you a better choice than the two candidates who were in the primary?

I don’t have a hidden agenda. I’m not one of those mechanical candidates that’s trying to tell you what you want to hear. I only can give you what I got and who I am. I know this is a challenge. But I believe I can fulfill it.

Is this time you’ve run for elected office?


Why’d you start with mayor? Why not city council?

I think I’m good enough. I believe if you can come from a family of 13 kids and 12 different daddies, go to school and get three degrees, and make sure your kids, who come from a challenged, dysfunctional environment, and all go to college and graduate, I think I’m good enough, for anything. I believe if the president can eat food stamps, and become the President of the United States, oh my God, can I be an example for my people. You know what I’m saying? That you can be whatever you want to be. You just gotta put that initiative out there. And you can. I’m an example.

So, I don’t have to start at the low. My higher power tells me he’ll make the last first, and the first last.

Why didn’t you get in during the primary?

I’m gonna tell you the truth. I didn’t think about running then. I tell you, I had my sights on bigger things. Oh, yes. I got goals. Because you can’t just fix it at the city level, I’ll say that. I need to be in Olympia. That’s where I need to be. And that’s my goal is to be in Olympia. And be a voice for Bremerton, for Kitsap County.

What would you say the top three problems are with the city of Bremerton, and what would you do to solve them?

Education. We forgot about educating our schools, our school system.

I would say our budget. Our fiancial deficit budget.

Jobs, that has to do with our budget. We have to bring green jobs here. Look at the weatherization. If they’re gonna get all this money for weatherization … it’s all gonna trickle down here soon. If we would go ahead and put those who do have felons, can’t get a job … and weatherize all those 10,000 homeowners’ homes that are here, that would put them to work.

You would put felons to work weatherizing homes in Bremerton?

Yes. They’re reoffending, they can’t get no job. The lines at the food banks are suffering. They’re in my office every day, they can’t get a job. We have to implement a job for them. It’s about implementing jobs.

More on downtown:

I like the beautification, you know what I’m saying. I’m not saying we didn’t need it. Maybe we went about it wrong. I’m not putting anybody’s work down. Some people just do the best that they can. But hidden agendas is not cool. Misleading the people and not hearing and assessing and asking the people what they want. That’s wrong.

You don’t think that the people wanted what was built downtown?

Well, some of it. Maybe not the way they went about doing certain things, I would have to say that.

Is there anything in particular that was done downtown that you would have done differently?

I’m not too sure about the tunnel. The apartments, the housing … that doesn’t set well with me, of how it went about. I think the most thing was that tunnel. But the way they did the rest of this beautification and everything, I think our town did need a face lift. But I think I would have left some of our stores downtown.

Those businesses left on their own accord, didn’t they?

I’m gonna be truthful and everything. I don’t know when they left. When they left, I was not here. I left in 1990 to make a difference for my kids. But I’m assuming if the town was dying and nobody didn’t do nothing then it was best for them to close and leave on their own. So I can’t say that’s what happened.

But from what I was listening to the other night, they were saying that the Bremer brothers had a lot to do with it. That’s why we shouldn’t give a few people too much power and control. That’s why the voice needs to go back where? To the people.

How would you give the voice back to the people?

Before I do anything, I would asses with my city council, and then say, let’s take this to the people.

You would take every issue to the people first?

No, not to the people first. I would take it to my cabinet first. To my employees. To the city council. I’d take it to them, and everything, and I’d tell them, then let’s address the people. I think the people have a lot to say about what’s going on in their town. How are we going to know what their needs are if we don’t ask them? You think we all should be a dictator? I mean, we should just dictate to them?

You think Cary Bozeman was a dictator?

(Pause) I ain’t gonna say ‘nothing about my brother, I kind of like him.

— Chris Kornelis