C-W economic development director interviews will begin soon

Company owned by Camas Mayor Paul Dennis is among the applicants

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Interviews for the individual or company that will serve as the first executive director of the newly formed Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association are expected to be held within the next several weeks.

Camas-Washougal Port Executive Director David Ripp said a total of seven applications have been received for the position. It is likely that those will be pared down, although to what extent he was uncertain.

“There are definitely three that stand out,” Ripp said.

Applicants selected to participate in a panel interview process will be contacted within the next two weeks. Ripp said those finalists’ names will be released publicly sometime following that notification.

Interview panelists are expected to include Ripp, Washougal City Administrator David Scott, Washougal Mayor Sean Guard, Port Commissioner Mark Lampton, and former City of Camas Public Works Director Doug Quinn. Quinn is a current Camas School Board member and director of water services for Clark Public Utilities.

In addition, Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes and Clark County Administrator Bill Barron are also expected to assist in the application review and interview process.

Following the interviews, the panel will make a recommendation of one candidate to present to the two city councils and port commission for the final decision. The goal is to have the EDA begin its work in May or June.

During the March 21 Camas City Council meeting, City Administrator Lloyd Halverson said Camas Mayor Paul Dennis’ company, Cascade Planning Group, is among the seven applicants for the executive director position.

Halverson said because of this, he has opted to not participate in the process of interviewing candidates.

Dennis said if his company is selected for the job he would not seek re-election to a third term in office. His current term expires on Dec. 31. He admitted keeping both jobs might be viewed unfavorably.

“I think definitely it would be — whether it’s real or perception,” Dennis said. “In my mind, I could keep the two separate, but a lot of people would have a hard time with it.

“If I get it, I know I will have to step away [from the position of mayor].”

Dennis has been the city’s top elected official for nearly eight years and also served as a council member for six years.

He said in an effort to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, he stepped away from participating in any meetings or other discussions pertaining to the Economic Development Association “months ago.”

“I wanted it to be as open a process as possible,” Dennis said. “I didn’t want there to appear to be any conflict of interest.”

If his company is not selected to lead the Economic Development Association, Dennis said there is a “high likelyhood” that he would run for another term as Camas mayor.

The process of creating a Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association began last fall. The organization will have a strictly local focus, aimed at expanding existing businesses and bringing new businesses and jobs to the east Clark County area. It will exist independently, have a board of directors, and be governed by all three entities — with the Port serving as the lead jurisdiction.

An inter-local agreement between the three agencies is currently being written, and will soon be presented to councils and the commission for approval.

As part of the 2011 budgets, the Port has earmarked $100,000 toward the effort, while Camas and Washougal are set to contribute $50,000 each.

The Economic Development Association’s first year budget is expected to be approximately $175,000.