By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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Port Director of Business Development Colleen McAleer, the fourth-ranking manager on the port's staff roster, according to the port's website at www.portofpa.com, filed Friday to run against appointed incumbent Paul McHugh and Del DelaBarre, owner of DelaBarre and Associates Inc. of Sequim.
Senior Port Commissioner John Calhoun said Friday that McAleer can run for public office without compromising her job and the port but would have to quit that job if she is elected.
Calhoun said McAleer successfully challenged as unconstitutional a port personnel policy that required port employees to seek the permission of the port executive director — currently Jeff Robb — to seek public office.
“We reviewed that and have agreed” with McAleer, Calhoun said.
“It's awkward to have an employee for commissioner,” he added. “It's a bit unusual, and it was a bit of a surprise.”
The top two vote-getters in the primary will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Only District 1 voters can cast ballots in the primary, but the vote is countywide in the general election.
The district's boundaries are the same as those for the District 1 county commissioner position.
McAleer, 45, who filed for the port commission position Thursday, declined to be interviewed “until after I've had more time to think and develop what I want to say,” she said Friday.
McAleer, a former real estate broker who served 10 years in the Army and who was commander of an electronic warfare platoon, instead released a statement.
The statement said:
“I feel compelled to run for port commissioner for two reasons,” she said in the statement.
“First, there are untapped opportunities to be developed right now for business growth in the export sector that align with state initiatives and will bring outside money to our community,” McAleer said.
“Secondly, to work with the other commissioners to foster a culture change at the port so that proactive measures are taken to further open communication and bring our community members together to maximize our port assets.”
McAleer makes $82,131 as director of business development.
The winner of the election will earn $200 per month and $104 per day on days conducting port business for up to 96 days, or $9,984 a year, and will receive life and health insurance.
“I suppose this is probably not something that you see routinely in elections,” McHugh said of running against a port employee who makes regular presentations to him and Port Commissioners Jim Hallett and Calhoun.
“Colleen is a registered voter, and certainly it's her right and privilege to do that,” he said.
“Certainly, the voters will have choices to make.”
McHugh, 56, said commissioners interact with staff mainly at port commission meetings, while the staff works for Robb.
“I don't expect my working relationship with Colleen to be any different than it is right now,” McHugh said.
McHugh, 56, a former Realtor and former Sequim City Council member, has been port commissioner since January 2012.
He was appointed to succeed former Port Commissioner Jim McEntire, who resigned after winning election as Clallam County commissioner in November 2011.
If elected, McHugh's priorities will include the environmental cleanup of the Peninsula Plywood site and Port Angeles Harbor, supporting the composites initiative and the forestry industry, and fostering business development, McHugh said.
DelaBarre, 75, has held management positions in the aerospace industry and local government, and consulted with the National Science Foundation and Federal Laboratory Consortium.
“I think that we have such an incredible resource in a deepwater port in a small town, and I just feel that we should probably do more in the philosophy of what it takes to do economic development,” DelaBarre said.
“My skill set is really needed in the port,” he added.
“I can bring something new and something fresh in terms of what my experience has [been] up to this point.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.