Whatmakes Mike Kent run?

Published on Thu, Jun 2, 2005 by owell Jackson

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What makes Mike Kent run?

By Lowell Jackson

“When I was 12 and my brother Jeff eight, Dad dropped us off at the docks in Ilwaco, Washington and told us to find a job. That night both of us came home with jobs and have been working ever since,” said Mike Kent.

“We hauled salmon off charter boats at a nickel a fish, plus tips, and learned how to sell them ourselves. That’s when both of us began to love work and discovered we could become self-sufficient.”

ike was born in Portland, Oregon in 1954 to John and Cleo Kent. He has two brothers and one sister. David, the oldest, is a professional musician and chef in Oregon, plays guitar and sings in a rock group. Jeff is state committeeman for the Republican party and president of Interlube International. Lori is a special education teacher in Federal Way.

His father, now in retirement at Semiahmoo, worked for Oregon Saw Chain as vice-president in charge of marketing for the company. The family moved three or four times between Portland and Vancouver, B.C. when Mike was a boy.

“The significant thing I learned in our moves was how to get along with people and make new friends,” he said. “Wherever I went, I was tested as the new kid, and I wasn’t very big either. I had a lot of appointments after school in the schoolyard and showed up for all of them.”

“I discovered early on that I was allergic to pain and bloody noses and learned quickly how to talk my way out of situations. In almost every case, I would befriend those same bullies who wanted to show me who was in charge,” he grinned sheepishly.

During those growing up years, the only place the four Kent children felt truly at home was at their summer cabin in Long Beach, Washington. “The most thrilling thing we did and it didn’t cost anything, was to go beachcombing after an exciting winter storm to collect Japanese floats and other treasures.”

“We’d also go down to the north jetty at Long Beach to brave the most violent storms. To this day, I still love to rush out in the wind and rain to see what’s going on. We were brought up to believe that you don’t run from adversity or problems, you meet them head on and turn them into opportunities. My whole life is based on that.”

Mike’s mother, Cleo, who passed away several years ago, was a history buff and great collector of Americana artifacts. “An ancient garbage dump was discovered in Vancouver and we went down with her for two months digging up antique bottles,” Mike recalls. “She was a very compassionate person who did a lot of volunteer work to help victims of violent crimes.” 

“Her father, Fred Heinz, began in the ’50s to collect Indian arrowheads and amassed one of the largest collections in the Pacific northwest. When I was about 11 or 12 I put in long days in sweltering heat, keeping a wary eye out for rattlesnakes, digging and shaking screeners in search of arrowheads. This was in The Dalles area before dams were built. Grandpa lobbied long and hard to enable archeologists to gather these artifacts before the land became covered with water.”

Mike began his diverse career in 1975 as a commercial artist for Capilano Trading in Vancouver, creating designs for inexpensive souvenirs like mugs and T-shirts. “I learned what being a starving artist was like,” he said. “I still see silly beer mugs today in Kimberly, Revelstoke and Banff I designed for $50 that were mass produced in China. I wish I’d got a nickel for every mug sold.”

He spent a number of years in retail management positions, including shoe stores and American Greetings where he worked seven years. In the early ’80s, he joined forces with brother Jeff to expand a lubricant (oil) business. Jeff handled production while Mike focused on sales and distribution.

“I found it really challenging and exciting - even to this day - to go to any small town in the U.S. and Canada to see our Opti-2 and Opti-4 products on the shelves in lawn and garden stores.”

The business mushroomed where Mike was on the road constantly away from family to whom he was deeply committed. His wife Rose once calculated that he spent three years in Holiday Inns alone during this 15-year period. Every second Monday he would be flying off to places like Chicago, New York, Miami and Atlanta.

“We relocated a number of times - New Hampshire, North Carolina and eventually to Whatcom County. Rose was always supportive and absolutely devoted to our children whom she has home taught prior to their high school years.”

“Her parents escaped from East Germany in 1953 where they had a farm and packed a single suitcase so as to appear to go on vacation. They gave up all their worldly possessions and migrated to Canada so that Rose and her two brothers could have a future.”

In 1998, Mike sold out his interest in Interlube International. “Eventually I came to realize that you only live once and I wanted to spend it home with my wife and kids. I didn’t know what I was going to do and planned to take off six months to decide. That lasted three days.

“I made the mistake of taking a book along with me fly fishing on White Lake (near the retirement home of Rose’s parents in Salmon Arm, B.C.).” The book, titled ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’ dealt with midlife career changes. He got into the third chapter and knew exactly what he wanted to do—go into real estate and tell people what an amazing area they lived in, something that would not require him to leave home again.  

The rest is history. In 2004, Mike Kent was named ‘Realtor of the Year’ among 752 agents in Whatcom County. Five years prior, he was honored as ‘Rookie of the Year’ for the Northwest region. He is currently a realtor (not a broker) for Windermere where his wife takes off time as homemaker to assist him as a marketing coordinator.

Mike’s oldest son, Shawn, 27, is in the military and has served in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf and was named military photographer of the year in 2004. Lisa, 19, attends art school and aspires to become an art teacher. Brian, 17, attends Blaine high school and has a deep passion for music. He performs in the jazz band, stage band, concert band, and wind ensemble; he plays bass guitar (has a rock band, too), trumpet and French horn and plans to pursue religious studies after high school. Brittany, 12, plays flute, piano and recently took up the piccolo. She wants to go into veterinary medicine.
“A common thread runs through all our children,” said Mike. “They have a compassion to help those handicapped or ignored by others as well as care for injured animals.”

Mike and Rose Kent have furthered this commitment along through their active support of numerous organizations that benefit youth and oldsters throughout Whatcom County.

“I love trying to help people realize the American Dream in the purchase of a home,” he concluded. “My total focus is to play a positive role in building our community and supporting those organizations that will do good for people in the decades ahead.”