By Marissa Luck, April 29, 2015, The Daily News
Longview businessman Jeff Wilson announced Tuesday he is running for the Port of Longview position now held by Darold Dietz, saying he wanted to lower taxes and improve public accessibility. If he wins, he could, in effect, reduce the longshoremen’s influence over the commission.
“Our community needs a stronger port that can provide more family-wage jobs while reducing taxation on property owners,” Wilson, 54, said in a press release.
Darold Dietz was elected to the District 1 seat in 2007. He told The Daily News earlier this month he hadn’t decided whether he would seek re-election. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Two out of three port commissioners are former longshoremen: Dietz and Lou Johnson. The longshoremen’s union opposed Haven Energy’s proposed $300-million propane terminal, which the commission unanimously rejected after significant controversy. Some critics accused the union of having too much sway over the decision, which commissioners denied.
“I don’t know if the longshoremen are getting improper bad rap for (Haven),” Wilson said Wednesday. “As far as longshoremen go, they are a part of this community.They are an economic engine in this community.”
Wilson said he would not try to seek an endorsement from the longshoremen’s union, or from anyone who is not a registered voter. He also said he would not accept financial contributions, and that he and his wife, Trisha, would fund his campaign.
Wilson declined to say if he supported or opposed Haven Energy, and noted that he was actually in Singapore during the commissioners’ vote.
“Obviously, the public had a number of concerns about (Haven) and maybe the public wasn’t engaged quickly enough,” he said.
Wilson said he wants the port to include the public more when it works to secure new industrial clients, or when making major decisions such as taking over Willow Grove Park. As one way to improve public involvement, he suggested moving the commissioners’ meeting times to the evenings.
One of his primary goals would be to remove the port’s property tax, he said. While he agreed the port needed the revenue at the time it was put into place, he said it no longer is.
Wilson has founded several businesses in his career. He currently owns and operates T.P.I., a portable toilet company. Trisha and he also are trying to start a sanitation business in Cambodia, he said.
Traveling to Asia and seeing “the hustle and bustle of the ports in Hong Kong and Singapore” showed him how the region is connected to the West Coast by “an economic umbilical cord,” he said. He hopes to continue promoting Longview’s trade relations there.
Wilson has been involved in several community projects, including the restoration Longview’s historic Shay Locomotive.
The filing period for the Aug. 4 primary election runs from May 11-15. The general election takes place Nov. 3.