Get to know the candidates for Port of Bellingham district 1 and 2 commissioner positions

Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 1, 4-year term

Dan Robbins

Q: What inspired you to run again? 

A: I see the role of a port commissioner as balancing competing interests of the community and providing necessary leadership to the executive director and staff. These interests include: economic development, environmental stewardship, maintaining and supporting marine trades/fishing, responsible use of taxpayer resources and public waterfront access: all of which must be carefully balanced.

I also think that I bring a level of civility and transparency to the office. I believe my temperament and my experience as a business person here in Bellingham provides me with the right kind of experience to balance these interests.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?

A: I’m the only candidate in this election with port commission experience. During my tenure as port commissioner, I have never missed a commission meeting or a Washington Public Port Association meeting. I was elected president of the port commission twice in my four-year term. I am a life-long resident of Whatcom County.

I have been the owner, part owner or president of seven successful companies. I have helped achieve many positive outcomes for the Port of Bellingham over the past four years, including creating over 500 jobs and signing the largest environmental clean-up contract in the port’s history.

Q: A common observation is that the port is spending a majority of its economic development resources (money and employee time) on the Bellingham waterfront development project. How and what would you do to promote economic development in Blaine and Birch Bay?

A: We have put money and resources into Blaine Harbor. Next year, we plan to continue to make improvements to that facility. The port needs to work with the city to complete better access to the Blaine pier.

The Birch Bay community needs to bring forward any projects that would be applicable to the Port of Bellingham to help them whether it is job creation or a community access project. It is important for the commission to remember that we are a county-wide port and should consider projects in the county accordingly.

 

Michael Shepard

Q: What inspired you to run? 

A: I was inspired to run because the Port has a mandate to work on countywide economic development. This means the Port is responsible for creating an economy we all benefit from and can believe in. Whatcom County is a great place to live, but wages are dramatically out of synch with the cost of living. The Port needs to take a more proactive role in family-wage creation. I want to help bring positive change to Whatcom County. I will also work on issues such as environmental sustainability, housing affordability and homelessness.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?  

A: I am the right person for Port commissioner because I will bring a fresh, new perspective to the Port. My campaign has earned more organizational endorsements than any other campaign in Whatcom County. We are endorsed by commercial fishermen, firefighters, Teamsters, steelworkers, Whatcom Democrats, Sierra Club and more. These organizations represent thousands of working people in Whatcom County. We also have a vision for how the Port can work on the complex problems of our region. When I’m not running after my young kids or running for office, I work as a professor – teaching classes in Environmental Studies and Anthropology.

Q: A common observation is that the Port is spending a majority of its economic development resources (money and employee time) on the Bellingham waterfront development project. How and what would you do to promote economic development in Blaine and Birch Bay?

A: I’d like to promote economic development in Blaine and Birch Bay by re-opening the Amtrak stop in Blaine. The stop has been closed for quite some time, and the only other stops in the area are in Fairhaven and Vancouver. A re-opened stop would dramatically increase tourism and business for the Port, Blaine and Birch Bay. Additionally, the Port needs to invest in facilities and infrastructure at Blaine Harbor. Boat and marine trades occupancy in the harbor is down and needs investment. The public would also like the road to the fishing dock reopened for access.


Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 1, 4-year term


Ken Bell

Q: What inspired you to run? 

A: I ran out of patience when the Port of Bellingham took a vote that delayed the ability of Harcourt to build a $40 million hotel and conference center. We have been sitting on the waterfront property for over a decade without substantial movement. We need to break the logjam that is holding up development on that site. The plans have been approved; we just need someone with some guts to allow movement forward. I am a business owner and have created jobs in three states and two foreign countries. This job is in my wheelhouse and I want to bring those skills to help bring working wage jobs to the county.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?   

A: I work in ports all over the world. Since I left my former employer Recomp in Ferndale to start my own company over 22 years ago, I have dedicated my career to moving waste and surplus material out of remote locations.

Through my company Best Recycling, we have over the years established a reputation for being able to take on clean up operations in places no one else will work. This has over the years put me in ports from Antarctica north to Greenland.

I have seen the best of the best port cities and want our port to become something special. The language of ports is a language I speak fluently.

Q: A common observation is that the Port is spending a majority of its economic development resources (money and employee time) on the Bellingham waterfront development project. How and what would you do to promote economic development in Blaine and Birch Bay? 

A: The perception is somewhat inaccurate. Over the last two years, the port has begun working diligently on maintenance and operations in the Blaine marina. Maintaining our existing infrastructure is vital to the success of the Blaine marina. My hope is that Blaine becomes as much a part of port discussions as is the Bellingham waterfront. I do have a vested interest in promoting the north part of the county because I own property in Birch Bay and really want the economies of Blaine and Birch Bay to be less dependent on the Canadian dollar and Canadian traffic. It is my hope that we can locate some substantial businesses in the Blaine area because that region is not only one of the most beautiful in the Northwest but we have underutilized assets that we need to dust off and bring back to life.

 

Barry Wenger

Q:  What inspired you to run? 

A: In my 26 years’ experience working to facilitate waterfront redevelopment projects all over the state, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Port officials, citizens, marine businesses and trades, commercial fishers and others to redevelop and cleanup their waterfronts in an environmentally-sound and economically responsible manner. I’m running to bring this experience to the Port commission and help build a port for the people: one that serves to create county-wide economic development by ensuring the creation of living wage jobs while protecting our fishing and marine trades business.

Q:  What makes you the right person for the position?

A: I stand for a Port that generates prosperity and represents the interests of our entire community. This includes commercial fishers, boaters, light industry, shipping terminal customers, and marine businesses and trades. I believe that full public access to our waterfront and where appropriate, mixed-use sustainable development are equally important. Unlike my opponent, I’m not interested in selling off our Port to the highest bidder. I’d like to put my skills and experience to work creating a port that benefits the entire county – not just Bellingham.

Q: A common observation is that the Port is spending a majority of its economic development resources (money and employee time) on the Bellingham waterfront development project. How and what would you do to promote economic development in Blaine and Birch Bay?

A: During my career I’ve worked to help facilitate cleanup operations at the Port’s properties in Blaine Harbor. I’d like the Port to help find clean water to support Drayton Harbor’s shellfish operation. We should be an active partner in supporting the redevelopment of the Wharf District as well as the restoration and enhancement of the Cain Creek saltmarsh and Marine Park beaches. My family lives in Blaine, and I’m committed to seeing my grandchildren thrive and find local opportunities for living wage jobs.

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