ELECTION 2019: Engineers face off in port race

Cassi Marshall challenges incumbent Bill Ward for District 2 commission seat

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Bill Ward (left) and Cassi Marshall, candidates for the Port of Camas-Washougal's No. 2 commissioner position, talk during a Clark County League of Women Voters forum on Oct. 23 at the Camas Public Library.

Incumbent Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner Bill Ward and his challenger, Cassi Marshall, are vying for the Port’s No. 2 commissioner position in the Nov. 5 general election.

Both candidates have engineering backgrounds.

Ward is a registered professional engineer and has owned and operated a local engineering consulting firm for more than four decades. Marshall studied engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked as a structural engineer for a research and development center before transitioning into a career in the education field.

Marshall is running for an elected public official position for the first time, while Ward hopes to keep the position he’s held for 11 years.

Bill Ward

Ward has served as a Port commissioner since being elected in 2008.

“I had to so some soul-searching about (running for re-election), but I realized right now we’ve got a lot of unfinished business,” Ward said. “We’ve got it started, and I want to see it finished successfully to maximize benefits to the community.”

If re-elected, Ward said he will push the Port to maximize its investment in its waterfront; expand the Steigerwald Commerce Center to recruit additional tenants; finalize a long-term plan for Grove Field Airport; and support the Waterfront Connector Trail, Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge renovation and cultural center projects.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” he said, “and you have to keep going together to make sure you don’t eliminate one opportunity as a result of jumping into another opportunity.”

Ward, who earned an engineering degree from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, and a master of business administration (MBA) degree from the University of Portland, said that because of his work as the owner of Camas-based Engineering Management Associates, he understands the priorities of the public and business communities.

“I’ve got the experience. I’ve got the education. I’ve got the temperament to help the Port give the greatest value to the community,” Ward said.

Ward places a high priority on maximizing the Camas-Washougal community’s investment in the Port and securing an optimal return on that investment.

“The only job we’ve got, really, is to represent the community,” he said. “In order to represent the community, you have to ask tough questions. There’s no fear or hesitation. I operate my own consulting and engineering firm, and when you run a business you have to ask tough questions or you’re going to get snowed. I’ve never hesitated to ask a question if I think the people I represent need to have that information. I see too much rubber-stamping, and that isn’t our job.”

Ward has been a member of the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club for 24 years and active with the Columbia River Economic Development Commission, Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association, Washington Public Ports Association, East Vancouver Business Association and the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce.

Cassi Marshall

Marshall’s interest in running for a Port commissioner position stemmed from her work with the Camas Parks Commission.

“I’m really active on the parks board – I love our trails and our green spaces and our parks, of course,” Marshall said.

But it was her liaison work representing the Parks Commission on a Port committee looking into the feasibility of building a trail between Camas and downtown Washougal that really got Marshall interested in the inner workings of the Port Commission.

“That was my first interaction working with the Port staff on Port issues, and I really enjoyed it,” she said.

Marshall, who graduated from Prairie High School in Vancouver, received a bachelor of science degree in aero/astro-engineering from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She then worked as a structural dynamics engineer in California before moving to Camas. She worked as a highly-capable student coordinator and executive assistant for the Washougal School District (WSD) for 17 years before resigning at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Marshall left WSD to spend more time helping her husband’s residential development business.

“Our business is very small-scale, nothing of the proportion that the Port is doing,” she said, “but I’m really familiar with that kind of construction process, (as well as) the timelines, the budgets, all of that.”

“I have pretty decent communication skills and enjoy working with the public, and with my engineering background I’m comfortable with technical aspects of the construction reports,” Marshall added.

She added that the Port’s mission of improving recreational opportunities “is a perfect fit.”

“The recreational component is important to the average citizen,” she said. “We all seem to value it. I get that the first priority is the waterfront, and the industrial park is what pays the bills, but (recreational opportunities) are still going to be important going forward.”

Aside from her work on the Camas Parks Commission, Marshall also has been active with Partners with Camas Parks and Recreation, the Camas Ivy League, Washougal Festival of Trees, Lacamas Little League, Sierra Club and the Helen Baller Parent Teacher Association.