Looking ahead to the Nov. 5 General Election, the Vancouver Business Journal did a Q and A with several candidates running for just a few of the open positions in Clark County. We will run these Q and A articles in the next few issues of the VBJ until Election Day.
Here is a look at the race for Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner, District No. 2, between incumbent Bill Ward and challenger Cassi Marshall. Ward has been a commissioner since 2008, and is a professional engineer. He owns and operates a consulting engineering business with clients throughout the U.S. Marshall worked in the Washougal School District for 17 years, and very recently left her position to focus more on development projects with her husband Rick. They work on local, small residential infill projects, with a focus on energy-efficient construction.
VBJ: What are your main reasons for deciding to run for this position on the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission?
Bill Ward: During service on the Commission for several terms, I have been able to initiate a number of projects to benefit the community, including the Steigerwald Commerce Center and the Waterfront Park. These are complex undertakings. I want to see that these projects are continued to a successful finish.
Cassi Marshall: I was encouraged to consider this position by some very trusted friends, and the more I learned about our Port, the better fit it seemed to be for me. I’ve lived in Camas and worked in Washougal for many years, so I especially appreciate that the Port works to improve quality of life for our entire East County region. The Port’s mission to bring jobs, infrastructure and recreation to our area meshes well with my own priorities and interests. I am running for this Commission seat because I believe that I can make positive contributions to the team already working toward continuous improvements in our community.
VBJ: How do you feel your experiences in your profession help to make you a good candidate for this position?
Ward: As a business owner and community resident for over 40 years, I understand the requirements for successful economic development, the ingredients of popular recreational opportunities and the importance of minimizing tax burden.
Marshall: I have a background in structural engineering, which will be valuable as construction, maintenance and improvement projects are considered, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning about some of the technical aspects of the Port’s operations in recent months. I also have experience with construction projects, budgets and timelines through my family’s small residential construction business. These experiences will serve me well as the Waterfront Development progresses. My own small business experiences are also relevant to understanding tenant needs at the Port’s industrial park.
In addition, I think it’s incredibly important that I’ve learned how well-functioning boards and commissions operate through my employment at the Washougal School District Office, where I worked closely with the district’s board of directors, and my volunteer work on the Camas Parks Commission.
VBJ: What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges the Port of Camas-Washougal is currently facing?
Ward: The Port has made a large investment in the Waterfront. It is essential that this property be developed to provide an adequate return on this investment while fulfilling the vision of the community.
We need to make even more industrial property available to support businesses bringing new family wage employment opportunities.
Marshall: Like all of Clark County, the Port faces challenges with growth. The Port Commission plays an important role in contributing space and facilities for local businesses to provide local jobs, meaning increased local revenues and services, not to mention shorter commutes for many Clark County residents. Maintaining smart, sustainable growth, and attracting diverse industries, services and businesses will contribute to long-term economic health for the Port and the larger community. The development of the Port’s Waterfront will provide additional challenges – and opportunities – for the Port to meet the community’s needs and wants while adding jobs and office, retail and commercial space.
VBJ: If elected to this position, what are some of the changes at the Port that you would like to see happen?
Ward: An unusual question. Changes that I favor are already in progress. Yet to come is development of some properties near Grove Field to provide a higher return on that investment.
Marshall: I think the Port is doing quite well in soliciting public input for new and ongoing projects, but I would work to encourage continued and increased opportunities to do this. While canvassing local neighborhoods for this race, I’ve learned that people have very diverse ideas and opinions about how public funds should be spent, and how they’d like to see our community grow. With my background in energy efficiency, I’d also like to see the Port push for excellence in this area in all construction. Lower energy costs for Port tenants would make that a win-win. The Port has identified priorities in its long-range facilities planning for improvements and repairs at both its marina and airport, and I’d definitely be a strong advocate for these moving forward.
I also have extensive experience organizing volunteers through my work on the parks commission, specifically our Camas Ivy League (invasive species removal). I’d be incredibly excited to put this to use at the Port, perhaps as volunteer opportunities arise with the Steigerwald Floodplain Restoration Project. Finally, I know that preliminary discussions have begun between the Port and local schools to investigate the possibility of more student internship opportunities at Port based businesses. As a long-time district employee, with a deep interest in preparing our local students for life after graduation, I’d work to encourage this type of community involvement.
VBJ: If elected, in what ways would you work to continue to bring tenants to the Port?
Ward: I am very active in the Columbia River Economic Development Council that works steadily to bring new businesses into the region. Recognizing that the Port’s primary mission is job creation, I will continue efforts to develop more industrial property and grow our economy.
As a long-time Camas business owner, I understand the factors that make a region attractive to business. At the same time, I value our quality of life and believe strongly that businesses have an obligation to be environmentally friendly and operate on a sustainable basis. I have been extremely vocal in my opposition to fossil fuel terminals in Vancouver and at other West Coast locations.
Marshall: The Port’s industrial and commerce properties are already very desirable, and occupancy rates are high. I’ve learned that leases are usually in place even before new construction is complete. I believe that providing quality facilities, fair market lease rates and exceptional service is key to maintaining and attracting great tenants. As a commissioner, I’d look forward to keeping strong lines of communication open with both tenants and staff to ensure positive experiences for all. Our East County quality of life is another huge draw to businesses looking to locate to or stay in the area, so focusing on the Port’s recreational offerings, connections to our cities and collaborative projects is also key. Working with the cities of Camas and Washougal and local economic development agencies will provide essential information about the types of facilities that will be in demand for future tenants. I’d also like to see the Port invest in some shared and flexible work spaces, to allow small start-up businesses an affordable place to begin.
VBJ: What do you feel you would bring to the Port of Camas-Washougal Commission if elected to this position?
Ward: The highest contribution stems from having a thorough understanding of ongoing Port projects and bringing the ability to guide these projects on paths that will maximize their value to the Port District and its residents.
I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in engineering and a master’s degree in business administration. I understand the technical aspects of construction and engineering and can serve to hold contractors accountable and increase the public benefits of development activity.
Marshall: If elected, I’ll bring Commission experience, along with fresh eyes and a new perspective to Port projects and decisions. I thrive in collaborative settings, and have strong relationships in our community. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching our Port and meeting with key people in the area to become as informed as possible. I approach complex issues with logic and rigor, and strive to make data-informed decisions. I highly value public participation in local issues, and believe wholeheartedly that we’re better when we work together. So, if elected, I’ll bring energy and enthusiasm to the important work of the Commission, to ensure that our Port remains successful in its mission to create jobs, boost our local economy, and support recreational opportunities and access to our public spaces.