On Tuesday, Oct. 3, islanders probed local candidates at a forum on the Nov. 7 election presented by the League of Women Voters of the San Juans, including for the Port of Friday Harbor. (Read about the races for the hospital district and the school board as well.)
Fourteen races are on San Juan Island and three in the Town of Friday Harbor, though races appear on ballots based on voters’ precincts. Due to timing, four races were selected for the forum. Ballots will be mailed on Oct. 17 and due by Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Keith Carver and Barbara Marrett are running for the Port of Friday Harbor District No. 2 Commissioner 2, which holds a six-year term. Marrett currently holds that non-partisan position and commissioners can earn a minimum of $254, per month. This race will be on every San Juan Island ballot.
Carver said he opted to be a candidate when former Port Maintenance Director Joe Wheeler’s position was eliminated last winter. The issue sparked about two months of debate at port meetings, where members of the public questioned that decision, which the then executive director made before he resigned. (For more information, read “Port director resigns.”) Carver said some current and past port staff asked him — a port liveaboard and retired mechanical engineer — to run because “change needed to take place” and “questions hadn’t been answered forthrightly.”
Marrett is the communications and stewardship manager of the San Juan County Visitors Bureau, as well as a licensed captain and ocean sailor. She has been a port commissioner since 2005, noting such successes as the marina’s new waterfront walkway, releasing port budgets to the public for the first time in 2017, and the potential purchase of Jensen’s Boat Yard and Marina. (For more information, read “Port staff, board contemplate buying Jensen Boat Yard.”)
The purchase of the shipyard, while not a “done deal,” is a good idea because it supports the port’s mission to increase economic development, said Marrett, by keeping marine maintenance jobs on the island. If the shipyard closes, she continued, boats would have to leave the island for repairs.
“The port has the bandwidth to improve facilities at Jensen’s, upgrade the marina and expand marine jobs training on the island,” she said.
Carver liked the plan but wanted to review the 100-year-old business’s finances, environmental regulations and infrastructure before finalizing the purchase.
“If we can afford it, and it’ll pay for itself, I think it’s a good idea,” said Carver.
He added that he could not comment on the deal’s finances because the port hadn’t released any information. Marrett said the business was appraised for $2.2 million and the port could probably operate it for “very little.” The preliminary plan is to lease the shipyard, adding revenue back into the infrastructure, while the port operates the marina and slowly upgrades it.
Carver noted one of the biggest issues at the port is ensuring the sustainability of the Friday Harbor Airport, which the port manages. He said the port’s current executive director explained that airports don’t generally pay for themselves, though Carver said he didn’t “really know about that.”
Marrett agreed with Carver, that it is difficult to adhere to Federal Aviation Administration regulations, but added that the port can push back on some, which they’ve done before. She added that she wanted to keep the airport for the community and not extend the runway to “accommodate a few very wealthy jet owners.”
The last day for in-person voter registration, for those not registered in the state, is Oct. 30. For more information on the election, visit www.sanjuanco.com/1292/Current-Election. Read a Q&A with these candidates in this article.