Port of Kennewick Candidates Focus on Airport Redevelopment

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City Herald, July 17, 2013

All four Kennewick residents aiming for the Port of Kennewick commission District 1 seat would like to shape Vista Field Airport redevelopment.

Don Barnes, who was appointed to the commission in May 2012, was one of three commissioners who voted to close down the general aviation airport near the Three Rivers Convention Center in favor of redevelopment.

His opponents — Barry Bush, John Givens and Danette Layne — all support the decision made by Barnes and the rest of the port commission in April, but want their shot at what they all call a promising economic development opportunity for the region.

Each offers something different when it comes to experience.

Barnes, 61, has 14 months already on the port commission and a 30-year history with commercial real estate.

Bush, 46, has a background in sales and has lived in the Tri-Cities most of his life.

Givens, 67, has a 37-year history in the banking industry and a 20-year history with ports.

Layne, 47, has more than 10 years as a human resources professional and offers training and executive coaching services.

The two candidates with the most votes for the nonpartisan office in the upcoming Aug. 6 primary will advance to the Nov. 5 general election. Voters can expect to see ballots in the mail this week.

Port commissioners will earn $1,075 monthly starting next year, plus $104 for each meeting they attend. The four candidates are competing for the remaining two years of a six-year term.

District 1 generally includes southeast Richland/Meadow Springs, central and west Kennewick and Southridge/ Canyon Lakes neighborhoods.

Don Barnes

Barnes, who first moved to the port district in 1979, would like to build on what the commission has accomplished in his first year as commissioner.

The port needs to engage the public, private businesses and other agencies and elected boards in a planning effort for what will replace the Vista Field airport, he said.

Columbia Drive redevelopment and the former Tri-City Raceway property also have great potential for economic development, he said.

Barnes, a commercial broker, said his opinion differs with some of his opponents on the port’s operating gap. Overall, the port has improved its financial condition during the last decade and is focused on economic development, not making money.

The port is already working on closing the gap between operating expenses and revenue, he said. Vista Field losses contribued to the shortfall.

Barnes also supports collaboration and teamwork with other agencies and the private sector, he said, and he holds himself and the port to high standards of accountability, honesty and transparency.

He has enjoyed his job as port commissioner and feels his education and background are an asset to the organization, he said.

Barry Bush

The chance to do something amazing with Vista Field is among the reasons Bush decided to run for port commissioner, he said. He recalls growing up near the airfield, when not much had developed in that area.

The port should build on the Tri-Cities’ strength for distribution businesses, Bush said. The area is ideal for small, higher-end manufacturers who need to get products to Seattle, Portland and Boise.

He’d also like to see a mixed-use development that incorporates housing options, such as condos.

Bush also thinks Vista Field may be a good location for a facility with a number of gyms where basketball or volleyball events could be held, he said. That would provide a venue to bring in tournaments and visitors who will spend money at local businesses.

Among other changes, Bush would like the port to streamline operations and consider selling facilities if necessary to improve the bottom line, he said. The port also needs to be more aggressive at recruiting companies.

Bush plans to continue to serve as Benton PUD commissioner if elected to the port commission.

Bush, a longtime volunteer baseball and football coach, intends to make his elected positions his job and sell real estate on the side, he said.

Bush has not attended any port commission meetings yet, but has been reading minutes of recent and past commission meetings, he said.

John Givens

Givens, Yakima National Bank senior vice president of credit administration, looks forward to developing Vista Field into a mixed-use development the Tri-Cities can be proud of, he said.

His position on the Kennewick Public Facilities District board and his relationship with the city of Kennewick would help the port with that project, he said.

The former Port of Clarkston commissioner said he would like to see a mix of entertainment, restaurants, residential, businesses, and retail.

The former Tri-City Raceway property near West Richland is another promising economic development opportunity, Givens said. The port also needs to find an economic development project in Richland.

The port should look at getting market rent for its business incubator properties and consider a timeline for businesses to graduate from the port-owned space, he said.

Givens’ experience in the financial industry would help the port shrink the gap between operating expenses and operating revenue, he said.

Givens has been a port district resident since 1996. He decided to run for port commissioner because he would like to make a difference in the community and feels a passion for the port industry, he said.

When he resigned as Port of Kennewick executive director in 2003 after seven years in that position, he didn’t leave the port industry like he wanted to, he said.

In the months prior to his resignation, Givens was the subject of several complaints about his behavior toward employees and was accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a female employee at port offices, according to documents obtained by the Herald. The separation agreement between Givens and the port stated his resignation was not from a past or present disciplinary action.

Givens has been attending port commission meetings.

Danette Layne

Layne wants to help the port and the community determine the successful ingredients for the redevelopment of Vista Field, she said. That includes finding vibrant, market-driven development that will benefit the entire region.

“Great economic development requires collaboration,” she said.

Layne would also like to help the port continue toward a cohesive vision for Columbia Drive and Clover Island development, she said.

She would support the port’s continued effort to reduce the operating gap. But she cautioned against trying to hold the port to making a profit. The port’s job is to stimulate the economy and do what private industry can’t and won’t, she said.

Layne cited her personal and professional experience in goal setting, creating a strategy to accomplish goals, and planning and budgeting as some of the skills that qualify her for the port commission job, she said.

A port resident since 2004. Layne got bit by the economic development bug when she worked at the Tri-City Development Council’s Small Business Development Center 13 years ago, she said.

She also was inspired to make a meaningful contribution to the Tri-Cities while participating in Leadership Tri-Cities, of which she is now a board member.

If elected, Layne would like to help the port come up with cohesive visions and specific goals for economic development, she said.

She’d also like to encourage more active discussion at port meetings, strengthen relationships and continue to improve the port’s communication with the public and partners, she said.

Layne has been attending port commission meetings.

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