Election contests for county commissioners, utility district take form in Jefferson County

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Contests shaped up Tuesday for seats on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners and the Jefferson County Public Utility District commission.

Joe Baisch, a long-term Brinnon resident, announced he will run for the county commissioner District 3 position this year.

The seat will be vacated by John Austin, 73, who is not seeking a third term.

“It is time for a business-oriented person to sit on the Jefferson County commissioners,” said Baisch, who moved to the area in 1992.

“We need to identify our assets and build upon them in order for this area to thrive.”

Baisch, 66, is running without party support “because the commissioners should represent everybody.”

He is opposed by Democrat Kathleen Kler, 63, of Quilcene, who sent her candidate filing papers by mail April 28.

Also Tuesday, a Marrowstone winemaker declared his intention to run for the District 3 seat on the PUD commission.

Kenneth Collins, 67, who with his wife, Judith, owns Marrowstone Vineyards, will challenge PUD incumbent Ken McMillen, 81, of Port Hadlock, who plans to run for a fifth term.

The online and in-person filing period begins Monday and will end Friday, May 16.

In races with more than two contenders, the Aug. 5 primary will narrow the field to the top two vote-getters, who will run in the Nov. 4 general election.

Baisch, a Brinnon School Board member, has served on the Jefferson County Economic Development Committee, the Tri-County Workforce Committee and the North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce.

“In the Brinnon school system, 84 percent of the kids are on free or reduced lunches,” he said.

“The area is struggling and we need to find ways to get above the poverty level.”

Baisch has been married to his wife, Joy, for 42 years. The couple have two grown children.

The office of county commissioner pays $63,925 per year. If elected, Baisch would receive a raise tied to judicial salaries halfway into his four-year term.

Collins has several reasons for running for a PUD commission seat, which pays about $1,800 per month.

“If elected, I will take a proactive stance towards energy conservation, work to complete the fiber optic cable infrastructure for high-speed Internet service countywide and ensure that vulnerable citizens are protected from abrupt service termination and costly reconnection fees,” Collins said in a statement.

A clinical social worker, Collins worked as a consultant on mental health and substance abuse issues in the workplace.

He also worked as a manager for Chevron Corp. and as a Pacific Gas and Electric consultant.

McMillen was appointed to the PUD commission in the early 1980s and was elected to six-year terms in 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2008.

He wants to stay on the commission because of the March 2013 electrical power provider transfer from Puget Sound Energy to the PUD.

“This electric thing has been a real challenge and isn’t quite finished,” McMillen said.

“I would like to see it through. It’s going well, but it needs tweaking.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 06. 2014 7:37PM
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