teve Sego was a precocious teen living on his own with no plans to attend college when his high school principal helped him score a Silverdale Rotary scholarship in the exact amount of Olympic College tuition.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Sego ’78, whose varied careers have included coordinating U.S. Sen. Bob Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign in the Western states, teaching high school French and running an environmental mitigation company.
Currently, he’s spearheading projects that are reshaping downtown Bremerton and Port Orchard – restoration of the historic Roxy Theatre, creation of a pedestrian-friendly square named for music producer and Bremerton native Quincy Jones, and redevelopment of Port Orchard’s waterfront with a seven-acre complex that includes housing, multi-use commercial space and a community center slated to house a new Port Orchard library.
“All that started with the empowerment of what I learned about myself and the process of learning at OC,” he said. “(Before OC) I knew how to get good grades, but I didn’t understand learning.”
Sego singled out longtime history Professor Phil Schaeffer, who retired in 2018 after 50 years, with helping him develop skills that set him up for success as a transfer student at the University of Washington and throughout his life.
“Once I understood the empowerment of teaching and learning, nothing was intimidating to me.”
“OC was my boot camp for life.”
A business-oriented conservative, Sego worked for the campaigns of Dole and President Ronald Reagan, helped found a state think tank and fought for a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
He moved back to Kitsap nearly a decade ago and founded Waterman Mitigation Partners, carving out a niche as a developer who factors both economics and environmental impact into his bottom line.
“They are complementary things,” he said. “There’s a value in doing things right, but there’s also a financial, monetized value to restoring the environment and wetlands. It makes the land more valuable to the users.”
Sego’s passion project is a $150-million makeover of more than seven acres of downtown Port Orchard. The heart of the project is a community center that will house a library, community theater and meeting space. Other components include 200 housing units, 84,000 square feet of commercial and office space, and 500 parking spaces.
The project also creates public open space along a restored shoreline, including a kayak launch and beach. The Port Orchard library envisions checking out kayaks for downtown employees to use on their lunch breaks.
That’s an attractive vision to Kitsap Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Tony George, who is interested in expanding the bank’s headquarters as part of the project and believes it will help attract new talent to the area.
“I had to find a way to transform and redevelop this community that has been overlooked for so long,” said Sego of his hometown.
When he applied for the Silverdale Rotary Scholarship that started him on his journey, Sego wrote: “There’s no reason you should believe in me, but I believe in me and I believe I have the passion and ability to do something.”
He made a promise then to return to the community and apply what he learned in college to making it a better place.
He’s making good on that pledge.
“I’m working on this seven days a week and I don’t feel like I’m working. I feel like I’m fulfilling my mission.”