PORT ANGELES — Business owner and Port Angeles City Council member Mike French has announced he intends to file for the Clallam County commissioner seat now held by Bill Peach of Forks.
Peach said Thursday he is “definitely interested in running again” and that voters will know for sure when he files a C1 with the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Neither he nor French had registered with the PDC as of Thursday.
Candidate filing week for the Nov. 8 general election is May 16-20. A top-two primary is set for Aug. 2. If three or more file for a position, then the primary will eliminate one before the general election.
District 3, by far the largest Clallam County commission district geographically, covers the West End — including Forks — and extends east to Valley Creek in Port Angeles. District lines are drawn to keep population about equal in all three and, as the population rises in District 1, the Sequim area, the area of District 3 increases.
French, 40, lives on the west side of Port Angeles and said he has lived in District 3 for many years. He has owned and operated the First Street Haven Restaurant in downtown Port Angeles for more than a decade and has served on a number of boards and committees including the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic and the Olympic Peninsula Tourism Commission. He is an active member of the Port Angeles Business Association, Port Angeles Downtown Association and serves on the board of Volunteers in Medicine in the Olympics.
He was re-elected to a second term on the Port Angeles City Council in 2021.
His campaign manager is fellow council member and District 3 resident Navarra Carr, who described French as “dedicated, genuine and forward-thinking.”
How would a Port Angeles resident ensure he represents the West End?
“You have to be listening,” French, a Democrat, said Wednesday. “One blessing is that I’ve been able to work with a lot of people from the West End. … You have to make sure you are getting out there and having conversations with people.”
He mentioned he appreciates how Peach calls attention to the interests of the West End and said that “it is important for each commissioner to be an advocate for their district.”
However, all commissioners vote on every issue, he added, and “while different communities in Clallam County face distinct challenges, there are many issues that affect us all.”
Among those is housing affordability. He advocates balance — short-term rentals with long-term rentals, the West End’s historic industries — such as the mills that will be reopened — with sustainable tourism.
“How do we grow a sustainable tourism economy that is balanced with industry, especially on the West End” which has “a lot of beautiful places to go.
“We need to preserve them and also extract value from tourists … make sure tourism is improving our communities.”
Workforce development needs to go hand-in-hand with economic development, he said.
Another issue brought up by the Economic Development Council is that the county needs contiguous heavy industry zoned land, French said.
“The West End is poised to meet that demand.”
He supports the recent passage of the countywide 0.1 percent sales tax for affordable housing and, if elected, would “work towards using the funds to alleviate some of the challenges that working families, elders and young professionals have in finding housing through sustainable growth and removing government imposed red-tape that makes it harder to build new housing of a variety of types.”
French said he also wants to highlight the issue of public safety, while at the same time focusing on institutional resiliency, including a commitment to good governance and creating a shared vision for the county.
“We haven’t gotten all elected officials agreeing on a shared vision” at the county level he said.
“We have an opportunity to have a new county commission and new Department of Community Development director — and opportunity for collaboration,” French said.
“Disputes are not good for the county,” he added. “We need to have multiple elected officials working together.”
He praised the hiring of administrator level positions.
“Hiring Rich Sill and Mark Lane have helped the county be fiscally responsible and provided much needed transparency for the public and support for departments at the county.”
Other issues he feels strongly about are the need for opportunities for recovery from drug addiction and COVID-19 relief.
If elected to the county post, he said he would resign from the city council.
French, a graduate of Peninsula College and Central Washington University — where he earned a bachelor’s in music — was born and raised in Clallam County. He and his wife, Karissa, have two sons in elementary schools. He has served as the vice president of the Hamilton Elementary Parent Teacher Organization for more than two years. Both he and his wife have performed in the Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra, as well as many local musical theatre productions.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at [email protected]