CHIMACUM — Port of Port Townsend commissioner candidates answered questions about how the port plans to carry out its duties as it balances a budget while hopefuls for the Chimacum School Board discussed community engagement at a forum.
The Tuesday night forum featuring eight candidates who will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot was hosted by the local branches of the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women at the Tri-Area Community Center in Chimacum.
Ballots will be mailed to registered voters Oct. 18.
Bill Putney — who is challenging incumbent Brad Clinefelter for the Port of Port Townsend District 1 seat — said that as the only candidate with little maritime experience, he wants to balance the board with his entrepreneurial background and be a voice for economic development, which he said is the key to the port making money to fund projects.
“The port has 30 very good people working for it who know the maritime side of it very well,” Putney told an audience of about 30 people who remained after the school board candidates spoke. “I think I can bring balance to the port commission.”
Clinefelter, who is in his first term on the port commission, said he originally ran four years ago because he felt the port was mismanaged.
He said since then, commissioners have turned it around and he wants to stay on to ensure the port continues to seek new revenue streams and tackling infrastructure projects without getting distracted.
“We’ve put together a well-oiled team,” Clinefelter said. “We’re on the path of correcting many years of many wrongs.”
Fellow incumbent Pete Hanke, who is seeking to remain in his District 3 seat on the port commission, agreed that progress has been made.
Hanke said his focus would be to find creative revenue streams, like connecting with local agricultural industry, to bring in new business and capitalize on port assets.
“The port is a place with a lot of assets that haven’t been taken care of,” Hanke said. “The real question is how to take care of those assets without breaking the bank.”
Keith Beck, Hanke’s challenger and a tug boat operator from Quilcene, said he would like the port to develop South County areas economically.
“I’d like to see economic development, I’d like to see more South County involvement and that’s what I’m here to represent,” Beck said. “They’re doing a good job, honestly, and I’d like to be a part of it.”
The first part of the forum featured Chimacum School Board candidates. The four candidates are running for two open board positions. Wilma Hackman and Jack McKay are running for Position 5, while incumbent Sarah Martin is running against Ron Riggle for Position 1.
Hackman, a former educator who comes from three generations of educators, said she wants to serve as a voice for the community and influence curriculum to help students get the education and critical thinking skills to be engaged citizens.
McKay — a longtime educator who has worked as a teacher, principal, superintendent and professor in rural areas — said he wants to use his knowledge and experience to give back to the community.
Martin joined the school board originally to ensure her son, who is enrolled in the Chimacum School District, had the best educational opportunities, she said. Now, she said she’d like to continue helping the district.
Riggle is a longtime Chimacum resident, a graduate of Chimacum High School and a former basketball coach. He has one child attending school in the district and two who graduated from Chimacum High School.
Riggle said his main priority is to get the community more involved in the district.
Community engagement was a major issue that came up in the short question period, with one parent pointing out that only three of the over 40 people in attendance had children currently enrolled in the district.
“I think it’s time for local people to take an interest in our schools,” Riggle said. “The kids that go there are our future.”
All four candidates support such programs as Farm to School, which brings local produce into schools, to connect the school and community.
Riggle said he opposed a bond to build a new elementary school because he felt the district didn’t listen to the community. Voters defeated proposed bonds for the district in April 2016 and February 2015.
McKay, Martin and Hackman said they all voted for a bond but agreed that more community involvement probably would have helped it pass.