Jean Bosch: At the epicenter of Vashon’s civic life

Jean Bosch lives with her shih tzu Tad in a walk-in cabin on the west side. She doesn’t mind the walk from her house to her car, she said. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Jean Bosch lives with her shih tzu Tad in a walk-in cabin on the west side. She doesn’t mind the walk from her house to her car, she said.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Jean Bosch’s quiet walk-in cabin is a striking counterpoint to her bustling civic life.

The tiny waterfront home is a refuge, a place where she finds happiness in the quotidian — walking her small dog, watching movies snuggled up on the couch and waking up to an expansive view of Colvos Passage.

Perhaps it’s these peaceful pastimes that recharge Bosch, giving her the zest to face some of Vashon’s most contentious issues each day.

As the newly elected head of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council and campaign manager of Vashon’s school bond proposal, she’ll be integral in the community’s decision-making in the next few months.

Though Bosch is a real estate agent by trade, she entered that phase of her professional life only four years ago. A warm woman with short curls and striking blue eyes, Bosch has an engaging history on the Island that spans 20 years.

She served as Vashon HouseHold’s first executive director from 1990 to 1996. She spent time living on a sailboat in Quartermaster Harbor with her son. And for four years, Bosch was a Vashon Cohousing resident who worked as an organic farmer in the adjoining P-patch. Today, she lives with her fluffy white shih tzu Tad in a cabin in Paradise Cove.

While heading the school bond campaign and leading the community council may sound like plenty of involvement for some, Bosch, 60, also serves as the president of the Backbone Campaign and the Vashon Kiwanis Club.

Still, Bosch is self-effacing — she said it hasn’t been her ambition to head so many important Island organizations at once. It’s simply her time.

“I’m certainly not as active as many,” she said. “I’m a would-be activist. There are certainly things that I passionately hope for; if I were retired I would spend more time working on the things that are important to me.”

It’s tough to imagine another Islander with experiences as diverse leading to her role as head of the community council, the closest thing Vashon has to a governing body.

And after one general meeting at the helm of the council, she and others said they believed she’s up to the task.

Community council member Kyle Cruver has served on several boards and committees with Bosch, and said he’s always impressed with her presence.

“She is no stranger to running a meeting,” he said. “Even if it’s a controversial meeting, she is very evenhanded and open-minded.”

Bosch seems to have clear ideas on what it means to be president — rather than govern, she prefers to guide.

“The main thing about being the president of anything is that you create the context for the momentum of the group,” Bosch said. “You hold the group and make sure the things that are supposed to be happening are happening, and the things that need to be carried forward are getting carried forward.”

She said she was drawn to the community council by then-board member Jennie Hodgson, but that she finds its “profound democratic nature” appealing.

“Anyone who takes the trouble to come to a meeting can participate fully,” Bosch said. “I really like that town hall model. It’s not efficient, but it’s wonderful.”

Hodgson said she was thrilled when Bosch agreed to serve on the council board three years ago.

“I thought of Jean because I knew her to be really concerned about Vashon and where it was going,” said Hodgson. “The decisions we make now will affect people for years to come, and I think she’s got that in mind.”

Cruver said he thought her background in other organizations lent itself well to her council role.

Before moving to Vashon, Bosch worked as a building project manager, including overseeing construction of the renowned Wa-He-Lut Indian School on the Nisqually Indian Reservation at Frank’s Landing.

Cruver added that Bosch didn’t seem to have any trouble stepping up from council vice president — her former role — to president.

“She was burdened with tough, controversial topics right off the bat,” Cruver said of Bosch’s first council meeting as president on Dec. 15. “That said, I think she did a good job of trying to let all sides be heard on each argument.”

In fact, that’s one of Bosch’s goals for the council — “for as many people as possible to feel as heard as possible,” she said.

Bosch added that while “participation is amazing for such a small community,” she hopes attendance at community council meetings reaches the point where they outgrow their current location at Courthouse Square.

She noted that the community council and the school bond campaign are her biggest priorities.

Bosch and a cadre of volunteers will work until Islanders vote in March to convince them the school bond is necessary — a time-consuming task, she said.

“We’ve got lots of information on the bond and want to present it to the community in a way they can understand and support,” Bosch said. “We’re working at full speed.”

Board chair Bob Hennessey said Bosch was “the obvious choice” to head Vashon Island School District’s campaign to pass its $75.5 million facilities bond measure, though she insists she’s just one of scores of the bond’s dedicated supporters.

“It’s a very broadbased effort,” she said. “I’m just another voice in the choir trying to get that passed.”

Hennessey said Bosch has what it takes to convince the community a school bond is needed — on a tight six-week schedule.

“She’s somebody who’s involved in the community for all the right reasons,” he said. “She’s a strong supporter of education.”

Bosch’s son is grown, so the bond isn’t as personal an issue for her as it is for some Islanders. In fact, she said she wasn’t fully supportive of the bond measure until she took a tour of Vashon High School.

The conditions there are deplorable, Bosch said.

“It’s an insult to our children to ask them to go to school in that building,” she said.

In her work as a real estate agent, she has seen many homeowners stumble in today’s difficult economy. At the same time, she said, she thinks the bond measure is ultimately affordable.

“I’ve not had anyone tell me that they won’t be able to afford this, though I’ve heard a lot of people say other people won’t be able to afford it,” she said.

Bosch’s breadth of experience and deep understanding of Island life have made her a sage counsel to some of Vashon’s other civic players.

Bill Moyer, executive director of the Backbone Campaign, knew Bosch before she was a real estate agent, when she was head of Vashon HouseHold. Upon moving to Vashon in 1989, he became part of HouseHold’s board. Today, he said, he looks to Bosch for guidance on tough Backbone issues.

“I consult closely with Jean, for instance, in deciding how much energy the Backbone Campaign can give to the Glacier fight,” Moyer said. “I feel like she’s looking after my long-term well-being, as an executive director and as my friend. ... That’s a pretty valuable thing to have.”

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