Two challengers to face commissioner in Port race

Rich Monacelli and Barlow Corkrum have thrown their hats in the ring to oppose Mike Fredrickson.

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WALLA WALLA - Port of Walla Walla Commissioner Mike Fredrickson will face two challengers for his District 2 seat in the Aug. 16 primary.

Walla Walla residents Barlow Corkrum and Rich Monacelli will challenge Fredrickson for a six-year term on the three-person Port commission. The August primary will narrow the field to two candidates who will face off in the general election in November.

The initial election will mark a rematch between Fredrickson and Corkrum, who went head to head in 2005 for the seat vacated by four-term Commissioner Ken Jantz.

Fredrickson, a certified general real estate appraiser who co-owns Associated Appraisers of Walla Walla, said recently he wants to serve another term to follow through on projects and goals since taking office in 2006.

Walla Walla's lead economic development agency has in that time continued to lobby for millions of dollars for the realignment and expansion of U.S. Highway 12. The organization has also led retention efforts for jobs at the Washington State Penitentiary, in the wake of state budget cuts.

The Port has continued to develop plans for a business park in Burbank intended to draw a swath of commercial and light industrial operations to the west end of the county. The agency has also been a partner in the formation of a new economic development agency focused on renewable energy resources.

But the Port's "vast real estate portfolio" has been an ongoing concern for Corkrum, who manages properties in and out of the state. In a statement Friday, Corkrum said the Port's ownership of numerous properties may be in competition with private enterprise.

He also questions the commission's decision to increase the Port executive director's salary. The 1.5 percent increase this year brings the annual salary to a base pay of $134,726. Commissioners also approved $25,000 in deferred compensation, which Executive Director Jim Kuntz receives if he stays through the end of the year. Corkrum, who also ran for the Port commissioner position in 1999 before his 2005 bid, describes himself as an advocate for transparency and accountability.

"Local taxpayers have a right to expect a better return on investment for the $2 million a year the Port collects in property and sales taxes each year in Walla Walla County," Corkrum said in a statement.

Though never a candidate for the Port Commission, Monacelli is no stranger to Port operations.

For 17 years he served as director of the Walla Walla Area Small Business Center, which was in the Port of Walla Walla office when it closed last year due to a loss of funding.

Two of the center's funding sources, Washington State University and Walla Walla Community College, faced budget cuts as a result of the state's revenue shortfalls. The Port was the third funding source. Officials said they could not make up the difference left by the other institutions to continue the free service for local business operators.

Monacelli, who has a master's degree in business administration from Western Washington University, was not immediately available Saturday to discuss his reasons for running for office.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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