Voters have two choices as they cast their ballots for Port of Camas-Washougal Commission District 2, and while the Post-Record is recommending Bill Ward to fill that seat, his challenger Neil Cahoon has presented himself as a noteworthy opponent.
Ward was elected to the position in November 2007, in the wake of a great deal of bad press for the Port surrounding the infamous RiverWalk issue.
But during the past four years, with Ward’s and others’ leadership, the Port has slowly been able to begin to reshape its image, regain the public’s trust, and make some positive strides that could eventually economically benefit the agency, its constituents and the greater community.
To his credit, Ward has supported some important endeavors including preserving Parker’s Landing Historical Park and forming the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, which appears to be setting itself up for success in the future. Ward’s skills include a strong background in business. He is the managing principal of a successful engineering consulting firm.
Cahoon, a Delta Airlines pilot, is known best in local circles for his interest in and support of the local airport, and his sharp criticism of the Port Commissioners’ recent decision to reject FAA funding for Grove Field improvements. But his knowledge extends beyond one interest alone.
During his campaign, Cahoon has brought up some valid questions that the port should address. Namely, with a 25 to 30 percent reserve fund, is the agency taking in too much taxpayer money?
When asked for comment on this issue, Ward responded that such a substantial reserve fund is needed to support the future development of Steigerwald Commerce Center, the new proposed waterfront development, Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association programs, and future acquisition of land and development of infrastructure.
Executive Director Dave Ripp explained that the Port would rather have the funds readily available for these kinds of projects, than be forced to borrow money later on. But even in light of these planned uses for reserves, which make sense on the surface, questions remain. Given the extremely tough economic times, do all of these endeavors represent the best uses of taxpayer dollars? The Port shouldn’t struggle financially, but are all of these projects, right now, really necessary?
Despite the valid points made by Cahoon, however, Ward’s track record of guiding the Port through challenges, along with his support of projects that are important to constituents and the district now and in the future, tip the scales in his favor.
Voters have two good candidates. But for his smart decision making, strong business background, and attention to the important issues, the Post-Record recommends Bill Ward for re-election to the Port District 2 seat.