Baker won’t seek re-election to Vancouver port board

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter

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Port of Vancouver Commissioner Nancy Baker said today she will not run for a third, six-year term on the port’s three-member board.

“I feel good about it,” Baker, first elected to the District 2 position in 2003, said of her decision. “I have done a very good job” at the port.

The announcement by Baker, 77, comes as five people so far have announced their candidacies for District 2 and as Baker and Commissioners Jerry Oliver and Brian Wolfe face public criticism for approving a lease for what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal.

The port was sued by three environmental groups who allege the port violated the state’s open public meetings law in deciding the oil terminal contract. The port denies wrongdoing, saying it rendered the suit moot when it held a second public hearing and vote on the lease.

For her part, Baker said there “comes a time when you’ve got to take a step back and think about yourself, your family and your world.” She added, “It’s not as if I haven’t done plenty for this community.”

Baker said she will serve the remainder of her current term, which expires Dec. 31. In January, Baker told The Columbian she planned to run for re-election. She made those remarks not long after the formation of Taxpayers for a Responsible Public Port. The port’s decision to sign the oil terminal lease with Tesoro Corp., a petroleum refiner, and Savage Cos., a transportation company, sparked the formation of the Taxpayers for a Responsible Public Port political action committee.

The group contends the port lacks public accountability and transparency. The group says it will examine, select and financially back candidates for port commission, including Baker’s position on the board.

When Baker was asked in January about the Taxpayers group, she said she wasn’t too worried about it and that the decision to approve the oil terminal lease was “based on what we felt was in the best interest of the port and the community.”

The nonpartisan District 2 port race now has no incumbent attempting to hold onto the position. The filing period is between May 11 and May 15. If three or more candidates file for port commission, an Aug. 4 primary will occur. The top two candidates from the primary would move to the Nov. 3 general election. Only registered voters in District 2 are allowed to vote in the primary. In the general election, all voters in the entire port district may cast ballots.

The last time a Port of Vancouver election featured a contested race was in November 2007, according to the Clark County Elections Department.

Before Baker successfully ran for port commission in 2003, she worked for the port for 14 years, including as a secretarial supervisor and as an executive assistant to the executive director. When she was elected to the board in 2003, she became the first female commissioner in the port’s history, according to her biography on the port’s website. She graduated from Hudson’s Bay High School and attended classes at Portland State University and Clark College.

In 1996, Baker was named one of Clark County’s Women of Achievement by Clark College and the YWCA, according to the port’s website.

Baker said Friday she announced she would not run for port commission during a morning meeting of the Labor Roundtable of the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council. It was the same place she made her first announcement to run for commissioner 12 years ago. The group has been supportive of her, she said.

“I felt like I owed them that,” she said of telling the group first she wasn’t seeking re-election.