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Four challengers file for Port of St. Helens seats

New candidates cite increased public involvement; jobs, quality of life as priorities

Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Port of St. Helens commissioners Collen DeShazer, Mike Avent and Robert Keyser discuss matters during a port meeting earlier this year. The three commissioners are up for re-election this year.

Four candidates have filed for three seats on the Port of St. Helens board of commissioners.

The filing deadline is March 19, but challengers are already vying for four-year spots on the commission on the May 19 ballot.

Paulette Lichatowich is running for position one, currently held by Commission President Robert Keyser. Sydnee Alyster and Mike Stanton are both running for position two, currently held by Mike Avent, and Larry Ericksen is on the ballot for position three, which is currently held by Colleen DeShazer.

As of Wednesday, none of the port’s incumbent commissioners had filed to run. Last month, Keyser indicated he was likely to run for re-election. Avent signaled indecision, saying he was still considering it. DeShazer was unavailable for comment.

Port of St. Helens and its property at Port Westward remains one of the largest sources of jobs and economic activity in the county.

Much has changed in the port’s landscape over the last four years.

In 2012, the agency leased property at its Port Westward industrial park to Cascade Kelly Holdings LLC, for crude oil transloading. Cascade Kelly’s bio-refinery was later purchased by Global Partners LP. Global Partners now exports crude oil from Port Westward.

The candidates, so far:


Paulette Lichatowich lives in Columbia City and has served on the county’s planning commission for eight years. She has a background in research consulting and nonprofit work.

“The port owns more than 2,800 acres. The decisions the commissioners make are not insignificant,” Lichatowich said. “I feel there’s a network that’s not expanding the scope of knowledge about what the citizens of the county are really concerned about. I feel that I can bring something to the commission that speaks to that, that says I want to hear what the citizens of the county think and what their concerns are.”

Issues or areas of focus the port should prioritize:

“The component that’s missing from their policies is an environmental policy,” Lichatowich said. “They don’t have that in their mission statement. Other ports have a vision for the environment in their policies.”

Lichatowich said protecting quality of life should be a priority and cited the port’s opportunity to create more recreational opportunities, like public access to the Columbia River for fishing and recreation.


Mike Stanton is a Scappoose resident and longshoreman who also serves as president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Local 8 union. He works out of the Port of Portland.

Stanton said he’s taken notice of the rising impacts of rail traffic.

“I know they’ve got some good union jobs up there at Port Westward transloading the product to the ship,” he said. “We need those jobs. But you can’t have the community upset about the disruption it’s causing them. I was questioning whether there’s something else we can do, and work better together to create more good-paying, living-wage jobs, and keep the community happy at the same time.”

Issues or areas of focus the port should prioritize:

“I think jobs are a big concern. We need to continue to create jobs, especially good-paying jobs,” Stanton said. “The energy trains have been a boon to the railroad and with that influx of capital that they’re bringing in, I question whether we could be doing more for maybe tunnels, overpasses, pedestrian overpasses. I know that their timing, they’re trying to rearrange it so it’s not so disruptive.” Stanton admitted he’s catching up on some of the port’s issues and reaching out to citizens in the community.


Sydnee Alyster is a four-year resident of Scappoose. Aside from being newly appointed to the Scappoose Planning Commission, Alyster is a retired senior governance adviser with the U.S. State Department. She also worked in economic development for the city of Turlock, Calif.

“I wanted people to have both sides of the story with regard to the [oil] trains. I saw a lot of kind of reactionary responses and I just wanted people to understand both sides of the story and what implications there are to not having them.”

Issues or areas of focus the port should prioritize:

“I’m interested in developing the port’s land to increase jobs, increase tourism,” Alyster said. “I’d like to see some things done with the Scappoose marina. There’s not been much focus in Scappoose from the port”.

“It’s a trickle down effect,” she said of industry and job growth. “If the port is developed at Port Westward, then it has a trickle-down effect of providing jobs and we don’t have to rely on other forms of transportation. If we keep the money in this area, people don’t have to go out of the area to get consumer goods.”

Touching on fossil fuels, Alyster said, “We are a petroleum-based society. We can’t really do without these products. If we make them cost-prohibitive, if things become more expensive, it puts a burden on people who can least afford it.”


Larry Ericksen is a Scappoose resident who has owned his own photography business, Mossbarger Photography, for 30 years. He also ran last year for state representative for House District 31, losing to incumbent Rep. Brad Witt.

“We are still suffering from high unemployment and the lack of family-wage jobs,” Ericksen stated. “The Port of St. Helens is the single largest driver of economic development in Columbia County and I think it could do even more to help create family-wage paying jobs, be business friendly to current Port tenants, and add additional recreational resources for the people of the Port district.

Issues or areas of focus the port should prioritize:

“I would like to see a long-term plan for the Port that is driven by a vision of what the people want the Port district to be like 20 years from now,” Ericksen stated. He said he’d like to see Scappoose Industrial Airpark developed to its full potential, including a proposal for a Portland Community College campus there, following final approval of Scappoose’s urban growth boundary.

He’d also like to see the port explore “additional recreational opportunities,” like a public dock at the end of Crown Zellerbach Trail, improvements to the Scappoose Bay Marina, and an additional public dock somewhere in north Columbia County.