An opening on the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission — and vast interest in the position — serves as a reminder of the port’s importance to the local economy.
Bill Macrae-Smith has stepped down as District 3 Commissioner, and six candidates are seeking the position. Those candidates — Michael Conway, Bruce Fuerstenberg, Eric Gibson, Larry Keister, Joshua Seeds and Lucia Worthington — will be interviewed beginning at 1 p.m. Friday at the port office meeting room, 24 S. A St. in Washougal. The interviews are open to the public, and the port commission is expected to announce the new commissioner March 28.
Macrae-Smith’s term was scheduled to run through the end of this year, and the position will be up for election starting in the summer. The primary is in August, with the general election in November.
Whichever candidate takes a seat on the three-member commission will help guide facilities that include Grove Field Airport, an industrial park and nearby recreation areas. The port was established in 1935 through a public vote, and it has undergone expansion in recent years that has included construction of the Steigerwald Commerce Center and improvements to the marina. This year’s budget, approved by the commission, is $11.95 million and includes a 1 percent increase to the port’s property tax levy.
The most pressing priority for commissioners is development of a waterfront project designed to generate revenue for the port. As Commissioner John Spencer said last year, “We build buildings and infrastructure so that private industry can flourish, thus bringing new jobs.”
In an age when the United States is increasingly moving toward a service economy, it is essential that jurisdictions focus upon the kind of industry that a port can provide. Having a diverse economy is crucial for helping a region to ride out the ups and downs that are inevitable, and the Port of Camas-Washougal will play a role in establishing a stable future for the region. In addition, as Clark County residents have learned through the Port of Vancouver’s pending approval of a large oil terminal, port commissioners can play a role in defining the area for decades to come.
In other words, choosing a port commissioner is important business. And the large pool of candidates provides confidence that the Port of Camas-Washougal will remain in good hands.