During this fall’s general election on Nov. 2, San Juan Islanders will be asked to select one of two people running for Port of Friday Harbor Commissioner.
Victoria Compton is running against incumbent Greg Hertel. Compton arrived on the island 30 years ago while Hertel arrived 48 years ago. Both have played active roles in the community — Compton directing the Economic Development Council for over a decade and Hertel being Port Commissioner for 30 years.
What made you want to run for port commissioner?
Compton: “Seeing a disconnect between Port development and the community it serves inspired me to run for public office,” Compton said. “Old ways of thinking just don’t serve our community anymore.”
Compton said she recognizes the significant contribution of service Hertel has made in 30 years, but she thinks it is important to refresh the leadership on the island.
“In my capacity as executive director of the EDC, I have partnered with the Port on several initiatives, and have a long history of connecting the Port to critical programs that serve the community,” Compton said. “As an entity mandated to spur island-appropriate development, our Port can ensure that those initiatives and projects are laser-focused to family-wage jobs.”
Hertel: “I was elected in 1991 and took office in 1992,” Hertel began.
Hertel explained that he has watched the port change over the years.
“I enjoy this job, it’s a good job. We’ve got the airport; we’ve got shipyards; we’ve got the main marina; we’ve got Jackson’s Beach,” Hertel said. “There’s a lot going on.”
Hertel added he has gotten to know the staff well along with commissioners at other ports and feels that information and those connections are a very valuable aspect of smoothly running the ports on the island. He has been working on projects as port commissioner, such as Jensen shipyard and Shipyard Cove.
“They have demand for moorage, demand for shop space, and demand for business space,” Hertel said, adding would like to see those things grow. “I want to see those into the end so I’m hoping people will vote me in again.”
What do you think would make you a great port commissioner?
Compton: “My strengths lie in my decades here, my strong community commitments and a deep understanding of the problems we face, both now and in the future. I also bring lots of energy to solving problems, and I’m excited to serve my community as a Port Commissioner.”
Hertel: “I’ve got a huge institutional knowledge base. I was friends with one of the founding members of the original port. We’ve got some complex rules to follow and I know what we can and can’t do,” Hertel said.
Hertel added he has read all of the meeting minutes ever from past port commissioners and has other extensive historical knowledge of the port.
What are some key things you’d like to focus on as port commissioner?
Compton: “As a Port Commissioner, I will work to ensure that Port development and management never outpace fiscal or environmental sustainability or a strong commitment to our island community and Port stakeholders,” Compton said.
She explained the main Port stakeholders consist of boaters, pilots, liveaboards and business tenants and that their opinions need to be listened to.
“The overarching vision for the Port must be closely attuned to those community and stakeholder needs, with a view toward the future and not just on the past few decades,” Compton said. “Times have changed, and they will continue to do so. Our Port needs to be ready for that change.”
Along with that, Compton said she will ensure that the Port maintains prudent financial and environmental sustainability and stronger ties to its stakeholders and the community it serves.
“Other public ports in our state have launched projects that benefit not just one or a few, but that help lift up entire sectors, such as agriculture or tech,” Compton said. “I will focus on ensuring that this ‘long view’ maximizes the work that our Port does for the benefit of our community.”
Hertel: The key thing Hertel would like to focus on is creating workforce housing.
“I know kayak guys who are living in crawl spaces. It’s crazy,” he said. “That is the issue we are facing, that is what will change the economy. … We can’t house the people who work here.”
To supplement for the lack of housing, Hertel said, “I also want to work less on trying to attract new growth and work more on trying to mature what we already have. We can’t keep trying to promote new jobs because that creates more growth for what we don’t yet have room for. Let’s slow down, and let’s finish a bit.”
Of those projects that Hertel wants to mature are Jensen’s Shipyard and Shipyard Cove. He wants to figure out how to get more people in for moorage there, create more shop space, and more business space. He also would like to work on expanding the airport.