Two of the three seats on the Port of Olympia Commission are up for election on Nov. 3. Commissioner Bill McGregor is running unopposed and Commissioner Paul Telford has chosen to retire.
Two well-qualified and articulate candidates are running for Telford’s vacant seat – longshoreman Jeff Davis, 41, and Dave Peeler, 58, a retired state employee and environmental advocate for People for Puget Sound.
The Olympian’s editorial board encourages voters to support Davis.
Peeler brings strong environmental credentials to his run for public office. He was a special assistant to the director of the Department of Ecology and before that was manager of Ecology’s statewide water-quality program. For 33 years, Peeler said, he was able to work with farmers, business owners and environmental advocates to resolve tough water and air quality issues. It’s that experience, coupled with his budget expertise and service as Ecology’s liaison to the Legislature, that Peeler offers voters countywide.
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Peeler has, however, sent mixed signals on the future of the marine terminal on the port’s peninsula property. In his campaign literature he says, “I will change or shut down operations that cost more than they return to the community.” The marine terminal is a money loser so Peeler’s own literature hints that he would eliminate the shipping operations.
But in his interview with The Olympian’s editorial board, Peeler said flatly, “I don’t want to close it down.”
So what changes would Peeler make to turn the marine terminal into a profitable operation?
Unfortunately, he is short on details or plans beyond the suggestion that port commissioners should find more uses for the giant warehouse that sits alongside the cargo pier.
We were impressed by the fact that Peeler thinks the Port of Olympia needs to be more open and transparent in its dealings with the public and that citizens need to be brought into the decision-making process earlier.
Peeler said he would like to minimize the amount of money the port takes from taxpayers – now about $4.5 million annually – but admits that few ports operate totally in the black without a tax subsidy.
Where Davis tops Peeler, in our estimation, is his optimistic vision for the Port of Olympia – from the shipping operation to the marina, and from the airport and to industrial property.
As a longshoreman, Davis understands the importance of port operations and how ports must have a tax subsidy to survive. There are a limited number of ports in this state and nation and the likelihood of creating a new port is very remote.
Davis understands that Washington is the most trade-dependent state in the nation and that one in every three jobs is tied to trade. The wheat farmer in the Palouse, the apple orchardist in Wenatchee and the Boeing engineer in Seattle all rely on port commerce for their livelihoods.
As Davis said, “Everyone benefits from an active marine terminal.”
With more and more of the products consumed in the United States being manufactured overseas, Davis understands that eventually the ports of Seattle and Tacoma and other West Coast locations will be overcrowded and marine shippers will be looking for alternative ports. With aggressive marketing, Davis thinks the marine terminal at the Port of Olympia can fill the void and be a thriving community asset that creates more jobs and commerce for the capital city and surrounding communities. He thinks there’s a real future in the shipment of windmill blades, pulp, paper and wood products.
Davis understands that ports were designed as economic development engines and he wants to see outlying communities – Lacey, Yelm, Rochester/Grand Mound – take greater advantage of enterprise zones to boost economic activity. The port can play a pivotal role in making that happen, Davis said.
He brings a confident, can-do attitude to this campaign. Mixed with his solid experience in port operations and his deep knowledge of port business practices, Jeff Davis is the clear choice for voters on Nov. 3.
Port of Olympia Commissioner
X -Jeff Davis