Port Commission: Gunn Challenges Davis for District 3 Seat

Rolf Boone, May 26, 2013, The Olympian Modified May 26, 2013

Rolf Boone/The Business Blog The Olympian

Sue Gunn, a scientist and environmental policy expert, has decided to challenge Port of Olympia commissioner Jeff Davis for the District 3 seat.

Gunn, 65, who retired about 18 months ago, said she was approached about the idea of running for the port commission shortly after she ran unsuccessfully last year in the crowded primary for the 10th Congressional District.

It took her awhile to warm up to the idea of running in another election, Gunn said, but after doing some of her own research she decided she could bring some fresh ideas to the port.

“It could use new ideas and new approaches about doing business,” she said Thursday.

Gunn holds a doctorate in isotope geochemistry and worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for more than 10 years before doing environmental policy work in Olympia and Washington, D.C.

Some of that work was for the Wilderness Society, including seven years as director of budget and appropriations. She also was a campaign director for the Washington Watershed Restoration Initiative, a coalition of groups that worked to restore watersheds in national forests.

“I think of myself as a policy wonk, a facilitator and a problem solver,” she said.

Gunn said economic development ideas at the port feel old, and that it needs to address 21st century economic development ideas that create sustainable jobs.

She also raised some familiar concerns about the port: that it has historically operated in the red; that it relies too much on its property-tax levy; and that it needs to address legacy contaminants. Gunn, too, said the port could be a little more vibrant and people friendly.

She also questioned the recent lawsuit filed by former Port of Olympia finance director Kevin Ferguson, wondering what was going to “come of that,” and is not sure the port is charging enough for its leased lands.

“There’s a lot to be explored and improved,” she said.

Gunn said she has so far raised $400 for her campaign, and has until Friday to file the necessary paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Meanwhile, incumbent Davis is off to a fast fundraising start, raising nearly $13,000 so far, mostly from labor groups.

Davis, 45, a longshoreman who works mostly at the Port of Longview, is a member of ILWU, Local 21.

Davis raised nearly $50,000 when he first ran for the port seat in 2009, and raised nearly $70,000 in his failed bid for the 35th District legislative seat last year.

Davis said Thursday he welcomes the District 3 competition.

“I invite it, it’s part of Democracy,” he said. “It airs out what the community is concerned about and is healthy for the process.”

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