Meet the Candidates for Port of Woodland Commissioner

By Barbara LaBoe, July 30, 2013, Longview Daily News

The three men running for Port of Woodland commissioner all tout their differing experience as just what the port needs.

Longtime incumbent Jerry Peterson is facing two challengers in Tuesday’s primary: City Councilman John “JJ” Burke and retired contractor and former councilman Richard Harsh.

Peterson has been a port commissioner for 30 years and said he believes a farmer needs to remain on the board to help protect farm land in the Woodland Bottoms area. Without controlled growth, expansion will take place in disjointed patches and put adjoining farmland at risk, he said.

“I don’t like development just hop-scotching around,” he said. “I support farm land as well as development done right.”

Peterson also touts his time on the commission, noting the port was fully dependent on tax revenues when he took office but now uses taxes to fund only 20 percent of the budget. Three business parks have been built during his tenure, Peterson said, with another set to open. He also supports the port’s plans for a boat launch and park at Martin’s Bar, he said.

Harsh says he’ll bring his decades of contractors experience to the port, noting he’s retired and has time to spend attracting more business to the region. He said his background and contacts with builders will be invaluable. Harsh has no beef with Peterson and initially ran only because he thought the incumbent wasn’t going to seek re-election. That said, Harsh said he thinks he’d do better job than either of his opponents. He said he’ll bring fresh eyes to the position and believes he has fewer conflicts of interest than Burke with his city and Chamber connections.

“The port is all about building and bringing jobs in, and that’s what I’ve done my whole life,” Harsh said. “Commercial, industrial, residential — I’ve done it all. … I think the land is available (for development) but I don’t think we’re pushing it hard enough.”

Burke is executive director of the Woodland Chamber of Commerce and currently serves on the City Council, but he is not seeking re-election to the city post. Saying he was swamped with the Chamber’s annual golf tournament, Burke declined to be interviewed this week.

His voters guide statement says he wants to bring family wage jobs to Woodland and that port needs to add docks for loading and unloading ships. His statement does not detail how he’d finance such an expansion. He touted his 12 years of city experience in the voters guide and wrote that the “status quo” is no longer acceptable.

The top two votegetters in the race advance to the November general election. The all mail ballots are due Tuesday and must either be postmarked by that date or dropped off at a county elections box by 8 p.m.

The Candidates

Jerry Peterson

Age: 73

Occupation: Farmer

Education: Woodland High School graduate

Personal: Married with five grown children

Political and civic experience: 30 years as Port of Woodland commissioner, member of Woodland Grange and Farm Bureau of Washington and more than 45 years of church activities.


Richard Harsh

Age: 64

Personal: Married with four grown children

Occupation: Retired contractor

Education: Portland Adventist High School

Civic and political experience: Served Woodland City Council for 11 years; former Jaycees and Masons member and Little League coach.


John ‘ JJ’ Burke*

Age: early 60s

Occupation: Owner of a computer repair store and executive director of the Woodland Chamber of Commerce.

Personal: Married with two grown children.

Civic and political experience: Current Woodland City Councilman (not seeing re-election); Woodland Planters Days president; Woodland Grange Master; member of Lions and Moose clubs

*Chose not to answer newspaper’s candidate questionnaire. Information from Daily News archives

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