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Dec. 11, 2019

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In Our View: Burkman for Port of Vancouver commissioner

The Columbian
Published: October 3, 2019, 6:03am

For three decades, Jack Burkman has been an active and influential member of the community. Throughout that time, he has been a thoughtful, well-informed leader who not only understands the issues but is willing and able to explain them in an easily understood fashion.

Because of those attributes — and many more — The Columbian Editorial Board recommends Burkman in the race for Port of Vancouver commissioner from District 3.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion and provide information. The Columbian expects that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

In the case of port commissioner, the issues involve the port’s ability to generate economic activity while adhering to the region’s ethos of environmental stewardship. The port is a public entity with an elected board and a 2019 budget of about $58 million. It owns Terminal 1 along the Columbia River, just west of the Interstate 5 Bridge, an area for which ambitious development plans are being formed; and it owns the 108-acre Centennial Industrial Park, which is ripe for growth.

In other words, under the right leadership, the port should remain an important economic engine for all of Clark County.

Burkman’s experience suggests that he is the ideal person to provide such leadership. He spent 12 years on the Vancouver City Council before retiring in 2017, and he has an extensive record of public service ranging from the Clark College Board of Trustees all the way to the Southwest Washington Mosquito Control Board. Professionally, he spent 28 years in research and development at Hewlett-Packard before retiring.

In an interview with the editorial board, Burkman demonstrated the same attention to detail that he has brought to his other public positions. “Ports bring bad land back into good land that can be used to create jobs,” he noted as part of an in-depth discussion that ranged from Terminal 1 to the port’s role in revitalizing Vancouver Lake.

Dan Barnes, Burkman’s opponent, also demonstrates a strong understanding of the issues. He noted concerns about inadequate parking in the plan for Terminal 1, was well-versed on the needs at Centennial Industrial Park, and questioned some financial decisions made by port officials. Notably, he criticized port commissioners for not asking enough questions before contributing $50,000 to combat a milfoil infestation at Vancouver Lake.

“That kind of put a burr in my saddle when people showed up asking for $50,000,” Barnes said. “The port is not responsible for the lake.”

Burkman agreed that more information was needed, but he also effectively articulated why port officials should play a role in protecting Vancouver Lake, where multiple government agencies are stakeholders.

Burkman also raised a good point about his leadership being necessary on the port’s three-person board of commissioners. This race will fill the seat held for 12 years by Jerry Oliver, who is not seeking re-election, and the two remaining commissioners both are in their first six-year term.

Burkman’s experience with building coalitions, developing budgets and examining all sides of an issue would be valuable in maintaining a productive and responsible port. With his broad experience and his thoughtful demeanor, Burkman would be a strong addition to the port’s leadership team.

The Columbian recommends Jack Burkman for Port of Vancouver commissioner from District 3.

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