West Home honors a real activist

Not quite 11 years ago it was, that a cub reporter with this newspaper asked Janet West if she would describe herself as an “activist.”

West, who then served as president of the Helpline House board of directors and was a regular contributor to the Review as a columnist, was one of four islanders who had stepped forward to challenge incumbent Sam Granato for the office of mayor of the newly created all-island city.

With her indefatigable smile, West – then 67 years old, and well into her fourth decade of contributions to island living – was demure. She consented instead to run through her civic involvement: founding director of the Bainbridge Foundation; president of the public library board during construction of an addition in the 1980s; champion of an ill-fated attempt to build an island community center;

co-chair of a pro-annexation group in Winslow; board member of the Housing Resources Board.

As the reporter scribbled away, West concluded: “If that makes me an activist, that’s what I am.”

We at the newspaper saw Janet West regularly. Each week she came motoring through the Review parking lot, handing her “Help Lines” column through the car window to whichever staffer happened to be killing time at the back door, idling for a few moments to exchange good words. If she were still around, we suspect that would still be her way of getting things done – cheerfully, and in person.

Because West was about community involvement, meeting people and creating opportunities; she was a tireless advocate for citizens young and old. Countless islanders remember her years at Bainbridge High School, where she taught from 1969-1987. It’s no coincidence that Marty Sievertson, construction manager for the new affordable housing project that bears her name, was one of West’s

students; who wasn’t?

West won the mayorship in 1993 largely on sheer force of community achievement; she served most of her term before health issues forced her to step down. She has since left this world, no doubt gone on to other worthy projects elsewhere; this week, islanders will honor her work with the dedication of the Housing Resource Board’s nine-unit affordable project on Knechtel Way, Janet West Home. It sits in the heart of Winslow, right next door to Helpline, near other people doing good works.

We think she’d appreciate that; it’s the kind of project that would fit her definition of activism.

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