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Candidates race fills up for Port of St. Helens

10 candidates file for three open seats

Five more candidates have filed to run for commissioner seats with the Port of St. Helens.

This week’s candidate filings leave the race at nine candidates vying for three seats on the commission. Thursday was the final day for candidates to file, though the filing deadline occurred after the Spotlight went to press for this week’s issue.

Position 1:

Robert Keyser — Keyser currently serves as president of the Port of St. Helens Commission. A lifelong resident of Clatskanie, Keyser owns Clatskanie Builder’s Supply. Prior to that, he served as a firefighter/paramedic with Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District.

After serving three terms on the commission, Keyser said he was prompted to run for reelection “to continue working with the team at the Port of St. Helens to bring family-wage jobs to Columbia County.” Keyser said he’d like to see Columbia County residents obtain “good, clean family-wage jobs” without having to leave the area.

The commission president said his highest priority for the port is to help existing businesses stay in the county and expand to add more jobs.  

“Although recruiting new business is an important function of the port, a job saved, or even added by a business already located here, has an immediate positive effect on the community,” Keyser said.

Carmen Kulp Kulp, who lives in Scappoose and serves on the Scappoose Planning Commission, comes from a banking background. She currently works for Columbia County's Community Action Team as a contract coordinator.

Kulp said she filed as an attempt to give voters more options for candidates.

"I like the commisisoners and I like the staff I think they're doing a pretty good job," Kulp said. "I think sometimes you need to chagne the people to get some [results]. One of the things that kind of bothers me with the environmental groups is they protest but they never come back with solutions.”

Kulp said her past work with the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and her past working with small businesses as a banker could be an asset to the port.

She said the port should prioritize "bringing in the businesses that can fit their facilities."

"I know they're focusing heavily on Port Westward," she said. "I know with the hiccup on the Scappoose Urban Growth Boundary, it puts a little problem on developing the airport itself, but I think it would be an excellent place to focus on a lot more. I can't say the port isn't trying to bring in new businesses, I just think new people would help them in a broader scope."

Kulp and Keyser face challenger Paulette Lichatowich for Position 1.

Position 3:

Colleen DeShazer — DeShazer filed for reelection this week for her seat on the Port of St. Helens Commission. DeShazer said last week she was unsure if she would run again.

DeShazer, who lives in Warren, is currently studying for a master’s degree in environmental law. She currently holds a contracted position as project manager for Bonneville Power Association and is in her 15th year as a port commissioner.

DeShazer said she decided to run again to instill change on the Port Commission.

“I decided that I had to do what I felt was the responsible thing with the change in my experience and education and the shift in my own thinking,” DeShazer said. “I think they’re really lacking a good platform for determining whether or not projects are right for the area.”

DeShazer said the commission should prioritize its communication and public outreach, moving forward.

“We missed the boat somewhere, and I don’t know how we got there,” she said of the way the commission has handled its meetings and public interaction.

In 2014, DeShazer was absent for roughly half of the port’s meetings. She said she anticipates a more flexible work schedule this year, which would allow her to be at more meetings.

Thomas Prevish — Prevish is a mechanical engineer and adjunct engineering professor with Portland Community College. He lives in Yankton and said he decided to run after becoming familiar with the Port last summer.

“It was really me getting involved in the Bakken crude debate over the summer,” Prevish said. “I started looking at that and started doing some presentations to the county about the crude oil and the rail cars. That got me involved with Pat Trapp and the Port of St. Helens and its growth potential.”

Prevish said, as an engineer with a background in chemicals, fuels and mechanics, he’s taken an interest in Port Westward and its tenants.

“Growth, economic potential and the jobs, but also a big component of that is safety,” Prevish said. He noted he’s also optimistic about the potential of Scappoose Industrial Airpark.

Carroll Sweet — Sweet is a Scappoose resident who said she’s been involved with the Port of St. Helens for the last few years.

“I’m sort of feeling like we need a change in the port in terms of transparency,” Sweet said. “While they’ve done a lot of good things, I would like to help do better.”

Sweet said she likes the efforts to develop along the waterfront and considers the Columbia River the “jewel” of the county.

If elected, she’d like to see more transparency and a different approach to project approvals and lease agreements.

“I think the citizens need to be more infomed about what’s going on, and I think the port needs to be listening to what we think,” she said. “I think the big picture is sometimes left out. The mantra of jobs at any cost kind of no longer works in this day in age.”

Larry Ericksen of Scappoose is also running for Position 3.