Brandman MBA to hopeful mayor: The business of giving back
Even in community college, Bremerton, Washington, native Greg Wheeler knew some lessons couldn’t be found in a classroom. He wanted to see the world. He wanted the maturity and job skills he saw in his buddies after they served in the military.
So, he set off on his own personal growth path and joined the United States Navy.
“Just the combination of all of that (travel, focus and job skills) was what got me going,” Wheeler said. “(The Navy) offered the best types of training that were transferrable to the shipyard where I ended up working. I had a goal of coming back home and I pretty much knew I wanted to do that.”
He served for five years and then followed his plan. Wheeler returned to Bremerton and started the apprenticeship program at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to become a pipe fitter. Climbing the ladder at the shipyard required leadership training, which he learned through then-Chapman University College’s Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership program. The focus he developed while in the military helped him succeed in school this time. As did the partnership with Bangor campus director, Jennifer Perryman.
“She’s the one who walked me through. Talk about a raw person when I started. I was probably 48, 49-years-old when I went back to school for the first time in 25 years. Technology changed, for schools and online. You can imagine the advancement in education. She was there every step of the way,” Wheeler said.
He graduated in 2013.
“I really enjoyed college. And learning. And I like business. To me, it’s a very important field. I started thinking about a post career,” he said. “I started feeling like I wanted to give back, and politics was a really good fit for me.”
Still working full time, Wheeler started serving on Bremerton’s City Council, including as president from 2012-2015. He is now on his third term and running for mayor. [Update: He won! Read about the results.]
He is nostalgic for the mentors he had while growing up: involved parents, teachers, and doctors, who he credits for helping him become well-rounded. Wheeler is proud to be the first in his family to attend college, and he mentors students at Bremerton High School to prepare them to continue their educations.
He was disheartened upon returning from his time in the Navy and learning some companies left his hometown.
“There’s been some recovery but not very much,” Wheeler noted. “I want to see small businesses thrive. I want to see mid-size business expand and hire more people. I want to attract higher businesses to put satellites in our city. I want people in our neighborhoods to have employment opportunities in our city.”
To help him understand what it’s like to be a business owner, and attract them to his hometown, Wheeler earned his MBA from Brandman University in 2016. He said Brandman’s intuitive, flexible and supportive environment was a natural fit for his life and goals.
Pursuing an advanced degree while working full time was “pretty rigorous,” he said.
“I didn’t need it for financial reasons. We’re in good health and have done well. The education part was kind of for personal growth. I wanted to give back. It was going to be city politics, but if not, I would help a nonprofit and serve on a board. I would help in any way I could in using my experience.”
Wheeler finds out if his latest political pursuit is successful on Election Day, Nov. 7.
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