Port of Port Townsend Candidates Forum Deals with Retiring Director

By Charlie Bermant, September 16, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

The race for two Port of Port Townsend commissioner seats is partly a referendum on the port’s management in general and Port Director Larry Crockett in particular, according to comments at a candidate forum Monday.

Two seats are contested in the Nov. 5 general election: District 2, with Brad Clinefelter challenging Peter Quinn, and District 3, where Pete Hanke is challenging the incumbent, Leif Erickson.

“Larry [Crockett] will retire during this commissioners’ term,” Erickson said.

“During that time, we will be able to pick his successor, and I look forward to being part of that process.”

About 65 people attended the forum, which was sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce at its weekly luncheon at the Elks Lodge.

Clinefelter, 53, a retired maritime heavy-industry worker and owner of Mystery Bay Charters & Services, opposes Quinn, a 59-year-old entrepreneur, for the District 2 seat, which incumbent Dave Thompson lost when district boundaries were redrawn in 2011.

Erickson, 62, a consultant, is challenged by Hanke, 54, owner of Puget Sound Express, a charter boat service.

Port districts correspond to county commission districts.

Ballots for the Nov. 5 election will be mailed Oct. 16.

Previously, Erickson has called for Crockett’s removal and Clinefelter has said, “I’m in line with Leif on this issue.”

That leads some to believe that if Erickson and Clinefelter prevail then the two votes needed to remove Crockett would be on the board.

Crockett himself believes that to be the case, prefacing his forum question by identifying himself as “the future port director for two of you.”

District 1 commissioner Steve Tucker has stated his support for Crockett, as have Quinn and Hanke.

Both Quinn and Hanke said that if Crockett wasn’t doing his job he should have been let go in private and not made part of a political campaign.

“He’s been here for 14 years,” Quinn said.

“If something needed to be fixed, that should have been done by now.”

Added Hanke: “If this has been such a bad deal [with Larry], it should have been handled in-house.”

Aside from any issue with the director, the port could improve communication and planning, candidates said.

“We need to build better lines of communication,” Quinn said.

“It’s lacking now and we should change that.

“I would make sure we have a parcel-by-parcel plan for each property we have . . . we need to know what we are going to do with each and every property.”

Clinefelter said that the port needs more long-term planning for infrastructure.

“There are some port facilities that are in need of repair and we need to budget for this properly before we end up in an emergency situation,” Clinefelter said.

Said Erickson: “The port is a countywide institution and we should bring that into our planning and thinking.

“It’s easy for the port to spend the majority of its energies in its largest facilities and don’t do a lot for all three districts.

“We should change priorities for project-oriented work so people in District 2 and District 3 can benefit.”

Hanke said he thinks the port commission should be more proactive.

“I see a substantial polarity between the port commission and the staff and I think it’s affecting operations as a whole.

“The port is the driver to get things done. If you aren’t communicating, that won’t happen.”

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