Sequim School District Board of Directors candidate Brian Kuh listens as his opponent Jon Kirshbaum speaks at a League of Women Voters forum last Thursday. (Erin Hawkins/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Port commission, school board candidates face off in Sequim forum

SEQUIM — Candidates for Port of Port Angeles commissioner discussed economic objectives while Sequim School Board hopefuls addressed school curriculum at a forum held by the Clallam County League of Women Voters last week.

Incumbent port Commissioner Colleen McAleer and her opponent for the District 1 seat, Michael Cobb, took the stage first last Thursday at the Sequim Transit Center and discussed their ideas for economic growth in Clallam County.

Both candidates in the Nov. 7 general election expressed an interest in the port utilizing marine trade industries for growth but had different ideas of what kind of industries should be invested in.

McAleer said she believes cross-laminated timber and industries revolving around marine trade would continue growth in the county.

“Clearly CLT is one really big opportunity,” McAleer said.

“Additionally, there’s so many opportunities around marine trade,” noting recreational boating, topside repair industries and general aviation.

Cobb agreed with McAleer about the value marine trade presents to the port and said he is interested in “high value” industries such as Airborne Environmental Control Systems, which is locating a startup production operation at the port.

“That is the kind of business that really is attractive to us for several reasons,” Cobb said.

“As we get more concentration of skill, knowledge and so forth in this area it, will actually provide a lot more leverage to attract other companies.”

Cobb also said he believes there should be more diverse manufacturing operations and businesses in Clallam County and family wage jobs.

“One of my primary goals I have for this next year would be to promote a more diverse manufacturing base in Clallam County and not put all the investment dollars in one company to the exclusion of all others,” he said.

“If we have good family wage jobs, and families can prosper in Clallam County, the kids will have good role models to look to.”

McAleer said she wants to continue the process the commission has worked on for several years of creating a strategic plan and hopes to continue developing the marine trades industrial park.

“My primary goal for year one is that I want to see the marine trades industrial park well developed,” she said.

“We have accomplished cleaning it up and didn’t spend one local public dollar on that, but now it’s time to get our existing businesses to locate there, but also to bring in new companies in this area and in Seattle to move over.”

School board

Sequim School District Board of Directors candidates Brian Kuh and Jon Kirshbaum, running for the District 2 position, and Brandino Gibson and Nola Judd for director at large, position 4, discussed how they would address issues within Sequim Schools, such as the Core 24 curriculum standards.

Allison Van De Wege, a junior at Sequim High School, asked what programs or steps school board members would put in place to tackle the Core 24 graduation requirement.

She said this requirement started for the junior class this year and mandates students must have 24 credits to graduate.

If a student fails one or more classes under this requirement, a student is not on track to graduate.

Kirshbaum said he would rather see credits used in a way that equips students to deal with life problems.

Kuh said the board is aware of the 24-credit curriculum and that advocacy and the summer session program are two ways the board is addressing the issue.

“Part of the role of the school board is advocacy,” Kuh said.

“What I mean by that, is addressing the curriculum as Jon mentioned by intersecting that with making folks career ready after school.”

Judd said she is not familiar with the program itself but she hopes to encourage students to reach out to mentors in the community who may have expertise in many fields and can help them.

Gibson also suggested ideas about intersecting multiple subjects into curriculum in order to earn the credits required.

“We are heading in a direction with STEM and CTE,” Gibson said.

“And with those, it is possible we can do some creative development within the curriculum to where we’re looking at some mathematics in a welding class or engineering class that does still continue to meet the requirement of the state.”

Amanda Westman, a teacher at Sequim High School said the Core 24 curriculum is, “a major issue that’s affecting our high-schoolers.”

She works with students recovering credits and said many of her students face issues such as homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse.

Westman asked candidates what they can do to increase access to reduce wait times for the services that will make a difference for students who face these issues.

“I really don’t have an answer,” Judd said.

“It’s definitely a serious issue,” Gibson said.

“From my working standpoint, it’s just looking at all the outside options,” he said, such as having staff members on homeless connect and the possibility of tiny houses.”

Kirshbaum said the county has to take responsibility for these kinds of issues rather than relying on the state.

“The county has to do something for itself,” he said.

“So I call on the county commissioners to take a stand, I call on the police to take a stand and on Serenity House to take a stand,” he said.

Kuh said he believes the best way to address this issue is through resources and being aware of what the issues are.

“To answer your question, at the end of the day it’s resources and that means funding,” he said.

“It’s going to continue to be raising our voices collectively and stomping out these problems that exist here in Sequim as well.”


Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].

Brandino Gibson and Nola Judd are running for director at large, position 4, for Sequim School District Board of Directors. (Erin Hawkins/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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