Joe Downing, a former member of the Port of Olympia’s citizens advisory committee, has announced he is a candidate for the District 1 commissioner seat held by George Barner.
Downing, 61, served on the citizens advisory committee from 2007-13, he said, and it is that experience, in addition to his financial background, that makes him the right man for the job.
“I have the right combination of skills for the position,” he said Sunday, adding that the port needs more visionary thinking and more collaboration with local entities, public and private.
Downing, who has an MBA from the University of Oregon, previously worked as a production and operations manager for a PVC pipe manufacturer in Eugene, Oregon, before moving north to work for the state Department of Financial Institutions.
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He is a senior financial examiner with DFI.
Downing shared some ideas Sunday for the port’s various operations, including New Market Industrial Campus, the large real estate parcel in Tumwater that flanks Olympia Regional Airport.
“I would like to see innovative uses for that land,” he said, such as a distribution center for local farmers. “I love the Olympia Farmers Market, and they need a place to store their goods.”
He acknowledged that other port commissioners have mentioned the same idea but that it’s one that “really resonates,” he said.
As for the marine terminal, the port needs to remain proactive in the types of cargo it attracts, he said, pointing out that a drop in oil prices is a two-edged sword. Consumers benefit from lower prices at the pump, but it also could mean a cut in oil production in places like North Dakota, he said.
And that might slow imports of ceramic proppants at the port, which are used in the fracking process to extract oil from Bakken shale.
“We need to stay flexible in terms of our port products,” he said.
Barner, 73, said Sunday he intends to run for a third term, although he hasn’t made an official announcement.
Barner defeated former commissioner Bob Van Schoorl in 2007 and ran unopposed in 2011. Port commissioners serve four-year terms.
Downing so far has raised about $1,200, including a $1,000 contribution from Clydia Cuykendall, according to state Public Disclosure Commission data. Cuykendall is a current member of the citizens advisory committee.
Downing has a campaign breakfast set for 7 a.m. March 18 at the Lacey Community Center.