Cooper, Lewis served with aplomb

It’s a rare police officer who can stand before a hall full of irate citizens, announce that a lot more of them will be receiving speeding tickets, and leave the podium to a round of applause.

We’ve seen Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper do it on more than one occasion. Say one thing for the chief – he knows how to work a room.

So we found ourselves saddened this week by the announced departures of Cooper – retiring after a 29-year police career to manage security for Microsoft – as well as Dave Lewis, park district director, who’s heading off to manage recreation programs for his hometown of Arcadia, Calif. Both have served the island for the past five years or so, and have done right by the community during that time.

A learned and proactive manager, Cooper raised the bar for a department too long saddled with the label “small town.” That meant significant reorganization within the ranks, and the imposing of tougher hiring standards that now include college degrees (and broader worldviews) for recruits. He met community demands for traffic safety with a dedicated officer, and his new community preparedness initiative looks promising.

While Cooper found detractors, most were (by our observation, at least) folks who felt aggrieved in their own dealings with the law. No big surprise. On the whole, Cooper raised the department’s profile and forged a bond with the community.

Over on Strawberry Hill, Lewis took the helm of a district that hadn’t built a new ball field in 14 years and had other

nagging facilities needs despite years of steady population growth. Park commissioners were caught in a political morass over the question of ball fields at Gazzam Lake, and were

widely derided for the defeat of four pool levies.

Lewis – described by one commissioner as “more of a ‘let’s get it done’ kind of person than a ‘process’ person” – turned the district’s focus to other opportunities after a successful pool campaign. Working with school officials and volunteers to develop the Sands Road property, the district halved project costs and brought a new ball field complex on line years

earlier than would have been possible otherwise. Across the board, the district enjoyed a half-decade of tremendous growth.

Lewis did take flak from some youth sports interests, folks upset with the maintenance of existing fields. But that was largely a function of the balancing act required for park service in this community: negotiating the often conflicting interests of active and passive users, while staying mindful of the district’s shoestring budget.

We ask a lot of our public officials – not least, putting up

with the public. Everyone in the community knows how much money they make, and their salaries are invariably held against them. And no matter how well they go about their duties, somebody somewhere always knows how to better manage the employees, spend the money, solve the crimes, build the parks or cut the grass.

Frankly, Cooper and Lewis could be gruff in defending their departments. But while very different men, they also shared another trait: aplomb. Their self-assurance was usually tempered by some grace and humor, and they were liked for it.

We thank Bill Cooper and Dave Lewis for their service to Bainbridge Island. Stay in touch.

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