Port of Port Townsend Hopefuls Outline Priorities

By Charlie Bermant, July 17, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

Bringing business to Jefferson County and improving infrastructure was the focus of a Port of Port Townsend candidate forum this week.

“We need to make smart moves and forward-looking decisions in order to keep economic development moving forward,” said Peter Quinn, one of three candidates for District 2 in the Aug. 6 primary.

“We need to take more risks and go a little farther than where we are comfortable because that leads to greater rewards,” he said Tuesday night.

Fellow District 2 candidates Bill Putney and Brad Clinefelter also participated in the forum, which drew about 20 people to the Tri-Area Community Center and was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.

Incumbent Dave Thompson lost his district when its boundaries were redrawn in 2011. District 2 represents Port Hadlock, Cape George and Marrowstone Island.

Ballots were mailed Wednesday for the primary election. The two who get the most votes face each other in the general election, which will be Nov. 5.

District 3 candidates — incumbent Leif Erickson and challenger Pete Hanke, Puget Sound Express owner — also addressed the group, though since only two candidates have filed, they do not appear on the primary ballot.

The forum was the first of two this week that addressed the Port of Port Townsend elections. All five candidates also are scheduled to appear at a forum at 5:30 p.m. today at the Port Townsend Yacht Club, 2503 Washington St. It is sponsored by the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.

As an example of taking risks, Quinn, 59, an entrepreneur, said the port should have put more effort into establishing a passenger ferry between Port Townsend and Seattle, a plan it abandoned last year after three years of study.

“I think we could have tried a little harder to get this ferry,” Quinn said. “We could have found subsidies for its operation, done a test run and worked to find out what we didn’t know.

“After running it for a year or two, we could determine what the next step would be.”

Clinefelter, 54, a maritime trades worker, disagreed, citing the failure of the Kingston passenger ferry, which attracted too few passengers to be viable.

Putney, 66, a retired engineer, differed with Quinn’s idea of risk-taking, saying, “I will squeeze every dollar until it grimaces.”

Quinn said it is important to attract non-retail businesses to the area.

Putney, who is also a pilot, said his priority is developing the Jefferson County International Airport.

“They just built a new fire station in Chimacum,” he said. “I think it would have been better to have built it near the airport because it would have created a nexus for emergency preparedness.

“If someone flies into the airport, there is nothing for them,” Putney said. “If we beef it up and offer more options, they won’t just fly in, have lunch at the Spruce Goose and leave.”

Clinefelter said port facilities have become too expensive for the average boater.

“The Wooden Boat Festival [Sept. 6-8] attracts a lot of people to town, but the locals are struggling,” Clinefelter said.

Quinn said port prices can be readjusted, but services shouldn’t be sold for less than their value.

When Erickson, 62, spoke, he talked about “refreshing” the upper management as a way to reorganize the port.

“At some point, you want to get someone in there who hasn’t been doing it for 16 years so you can get some fresh blood,” Erickson said.

“Whether that means replacing the director or an assistant director, changing the management can help change the direction of the port.”

The port’s executive director is Larry Crockett. Its deputy director is Jim Pivarnik.

Henke, 54, said he would continue to operate his business if elected.

“I have been a tenant in the port for a number of years and a customer for the marine trade operations,” he said. “This isn’t a conflict of interest; it’s one of my strengths.”

While Erickson is running for a second term on the port’s board of commissioners, he did not rule out making a bid for Jefferson County commissioner in 2014 should Port Ludlow Democrat John Austin choose not to seek another term.

“I haven’t been approached by either party, and I don’t know how an independent fits in, but this is on my radar,” Erickson said.

“I think I could do more for the county as county commissioner than as port commissioner.”

Austin, 72, a retired psychologist who was elected to his second term in 2010, said Wednesday he would announce in November as to whether he would run again.

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