When your community gives to you, it’s only natural to want to give back to your community. This is the philosophy of new Milton city Council Member Tony Bennest, a long-standing member of the community. The Milton-Edgewood Signal recently sat down with the karate instructor/politician, who took over for councilmember Aaron Jones two months ago, to get introduced to his philosophy and background.
MES: Lets start with your background. How did you end up in the Milton/Edgewood area?
Bennest: I moved to Milton about 10 years ago. I’d been looking for a spot to open a karate school. My dad had owned a karate school in Fife, so I drove up here to look for a couple spots, and I drove to this gas station on 28th Street. I stopped in there and this little old lady started talking to me and I thought “is she trying to rob me or something?” because I’m from Tacoma, and that’s just not done. That impressed me so much that I talked to my wife about moving up here and we found a house. At that time I was the Fife community center karate instructor so I stopped doing it there and opened up my karate school two blocks down.
MES: So what got you interested in the city council side of things?
Bennest: The mayor had been talking to me for years about it because she wanted a strong leader, and I kept saying no. Finally the right time came, a seat opened, and I thought that would be the best time to try and get in there. I thought about it for a long time, ever since I was a little kid. I always said I wanted to be president one day.
MES: You’re working your way up.
Bennest: Yeah, one little step up. I wanted to see what politics was all about and I wanted to get my feet wet.
MES: So now that you have your feet wet a little bit, can you tell me about that experience?
Bennest: At first I was scared to death. I was actually debating beforehand about whether to do it or not, and I am so glad I did. I am very blessed to be a part of such an amazing team. All the council members care and want to get things done, and that’s amazing. Everyone is on the same track and everybody is on the same path of wanting to get things done. And on top of that is the mayor, who I think is an amazing person. Also with all the new city workers, they are on top of it, amazing people. Everybody has their own point of view, and I feel that’s the way life’s supposed to be.
MES: Want do you think you bring to the council that no one else does?
Bennest: My energy. I feel that would be one thing, the ‘get-it-done’ attitude. I like to go, go, go and I don’t get tired very often. And my background with kids.
MES: It seems like everyone on council has kind of a ‘get it done attitude,’ but you really vocalize and exude that philosophy.
Bennest: My energy, smile and go get it attitude and – everyone keeps saying it but I don’t think I’m that young – but my youth.
MES: What do you hope to accomplish with your time on council?
Bennest: To change the old way things are being done. A lot of things have been sat on, and it seems like the last several years things are getting done. And Milton, in our image, we want to grow. We want it to get bigger and we want to bring in more businesses. That’s a big thing for me, especially with me having my own business, to try and bring some mom and pop businesses coming into different parts of the city and then really push Milton as an all age city. That’s kind of what we want; we want all age groups.
MES: You own a karate academy so what benefits do you think that gives you on council? What lessons can you take from here and bring over there?
Bennest: Dealing with people, all the experience I have with people disagreeing, people not agreeing with exactly how I want to run things. I change things up a lot here. I don’t just stick to one way of doing things. I go out there and learn how to do it. I don’t feel like I know it all.
MES: Do you have anything in particular you want to say to the people of Milton?
Bennest: I would say get ready for the fun ride. We’re having some amazing things happening right now, some great changes. One big thing people need to know about me is I don’t give up. That’s one thing with karate and fighting and all that stuff, is if I can take that ‘I don’t give up’ attitude and bring it to [council], nothing can get you down.