Port candidates square off in Walla Walla forum

Experience and change was touted by the three commission candidates

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WALLA WALLA -- With a primary election less than a month away, contenders for a Port of Walla Walla commission seat took the stage Tuesday.

Barlow Corkrum, Michael Fredrickson and Richard Monacelli discussed topics ranging from preserving air service to sparking business growth during a debate at Whitman College sponsored by the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce. All three are running for the Port's District 2 seat, which Fredrickson currently holds.

The Aug. 16 primary will narrow the field down to the two candidates who will advance to the general election in November.

In their statements, both Fredrickson and Monacelli emphasized their experience, while Corkrum said his candidacy stood for change.

"The Port can no longer do business behind closed doors," he said. "A change in leadership is long overdue."

The candidates agreed the Port needs to continue efforts to collaborate with other entities, public and private, to recruit businesses, encourage growth and build infrastructure. But they differed on other topics, including how to market Port-owned assets and whether the Port is helping or hurting private businesses by owning as many properties as it does.

In their closing statements, the three summed up their individual stances.

Monacelli said that along with professional experience, "another thing people should be looking for in their public servants are personal traits, like accountability, transparency, honesty and integrity."

"The Union-Bulletin, I think, had me pretty well pegged when they said with regards to my small business counseling that I was 'brutally honest,'" he added. "Well, I'll take brutally honest any day, it's still honesty and that's what you can expect."

Fredrickson said that the Port is "building on success ... even though you may have heard otherwise tonight, we've had a lot of successes and we have a really good reputation throughout the state."

The U.S. Highway 12 coalition is one example of "the Walla Walla way," he said. "So we're going to continue with collaboration, with the chamber, with the downtown foundation, with these different entities ... these are the people we work with currently, and not just once a quarter, but all the time.

"We're talking on the street, wherever we can to find out what the needs of the community are and how best (the Port) can fill that role with the city (of Walla Walla), with the county, with College Place, and that shows the clear difference between me and the other two candidates," Fredrickson said.

Corkrum reiterated his contention that the Port needs new leadership.

"Accountability and transparency matter. A common vision and collaboration matter," he said. "For the Port to regain its relevance we must do right by its mission, it's core values and reflect that the Port is in the customer service business. The Port must regain its reputation for delivering on its commitments. The Port must demonstrate statesmanship and leadership while being a responsible trustee of public-owned assets."

"To fulfill that mission," he added, "the new leadership of the Port must do three things. First we must learn from analyzing the past, what works and what didn't. Secondly, we must work smarter and harder in the present, using what we have learned from experience. And finally, we must plan for the future, corroboratively, openly and with transparency."

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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