After being sworn in on Jan. 6 as the newest member of the three-person Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners, Cassi Marshall said she was obviously happy about the result of the November 2019 general election, which saw her win a tight race against incumbent commissioner Bill Ward, but for her, the campaign journey was equally important.
“I’m really pleased with how much I learned, how many people I got to talk to, (and how many) different perspectives from community members, city representatives and school districts (I received),” said Marshall. “I also learned a lot from the commission members and the staff here. There’s just been a tremendous amount of community input. It was fascinating to learn what most people think or know about the Port. I think I’m more excited now than I was on day one (of my campaign) because I know more.”
Marshall is eager to know even more going forward. In November, Marshall attended specialized trainings for newly elected commissioners at the Washington Public Port Association’s annual meeting in Tacoma.
“This first year I will be listening and learning a lot,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of expertise here for me to tap into to get completely up to speed on things. I’m really eager to learn a little bit more about the Port’s operations. Prior to the election, I really tried to get at least a baseline of familiarity with the marina, the airport, the parks and recreation, and the industrial park. And so much of the Port’s recent work has been dedicated to the waterfront project, so I feel like I’ve learned the most about that, which is great, because that’s what we’re going to need to be focused on for this year, too.”
Former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen said she encouraged the initially hesitant Marshall to run for the commissioner position “because I knew she is super bright, does her homework and has a broader vision for Camas (and Washougal).”
“And to be honest, I was looking for a woman (to run). Most people don’t realize how poorly women are represented on port commissions around the state. I thought it was important to find a competent woman,” said Henriksen, who has worked with Marshall on several community service committees. “Not only does she have the intelligence and the interest in technical issues, but she’s also interested in the big picture and quality of life. I think that combination of assets will serve the Port very well.”
Marshall, a Clark County native, brings a background in engineering, small business ownership and school district relations to the Port. She earned her bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and worked as a structural dynamics engineer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, before moving to Camas and transitioning to the education field.
David Ripp, the Port’s chief executive officer, praised Marshall’s “wealth of knowledge when it comes to green energy and being efficient.”
Marshall is the co-owner of Marshall Development, a local residential development business, and has 17 years of experience working for the Washougal School District (WSD) as a coordinator for the district’s highly capable students and as an administrative assistant.
“She’ll bring the relationship with the school district,” Port Commissioner Larry Keister said of Marshall. “We’re trying to develop an internship program – we have the industries, they have the students. We need to put those together, and Cassi will be able to (help). She’ll look at things with a fresh set of eyes. She’s very innovative. She’s analytical. She’ll ask the right questions. She’ll open the discussions. I’m looking forward to working with her.”
WSD Assistant Superintendent Renae Burson said “integrity” would be the word she would use to describe Marshall.
“Cassi is true to her word and follows through on her commitments,” Burson said. “In her work with the Washougal School District, Cassi listened to members of the school community and worked to understand various needs. Her ability to work collaboratively with diverse groups while maintaining a positive, solution-based focus will serve her well in her new role as the Camas-Washougal port commissioner.”
“Cassi’s engineering skill set provides her with a disciplined approach to analyzing projects and making decisions,” said Les Brown, WSD’s director of communications and information technology. “She understands that systems are complex, and that changes in one part of an organization or project can have far reaching implications. She will work within processes that are established and help ensure that when staff make recommendations, the work fits within the long-range vision for the area.”
Marshall is a member of the Camas Parks Commission and has also 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.
“Her school district and parks experience gives her great perspective on how government functions and on her role in the system,” Port Commissioner John Spencer said. “She has the advantage of having already been involved in local government initiatives that have both succeeded and failed, and she can draw on those lessons to improve the port’s chances of success. Those positions also give her a great network that she can use to help the port work even more closely with our partner agencies.”
Marshall believes her skill sets will supplement those of Keister and Spencer.
“I think we have some complementary strengths,” she said. “I think we have good diversity and different disciplines in our backgrounds. It is kind of nice to defer to someone who you know knows more than you do about a topic, and you feel that you have something to contribute in another area. I think we’re going to work really well together. We’re all pretty accommodating as far as listening and respecting each other’s opinions. Even though we might not always agree, I think (our conversations) will be very diplomatic and productive.”
Spencer said Marshall “will fit in great” at the Port.
“Cassi is among the most principled people I know, as shown by the very positive campaign she ran; she never said a negative thing about anyone or any issue,” Spencer said. “She will not back away from ethical issues. She’s brilliantly smart, energetic and committed to doing good work.”