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UPDATE | Enell and Jerome will run in November for port commissioner

In a race that focused on South Whidbey’s economic future, Dean Enell and Chris Jerome lead in the three-way primary contest for the Langley seat on the board of commissioners for the Port of South Whidbey.

Enell has 37 percent (596 votes), Jerome has 33 percent (541 votes) and Herb Helsel, 30 percent (483 votes).

There were 3,930 registered eligible voters in District 2.

Enell and Jerome will face off again in the Nov. 3 General Election; but this time, all of South Whidbey gets to cast a vote.

Economic development was the focus for the men running to represent Langley as port commissioner.

While the port still operates South End launch ramps and park facilities, the South Whidbey Harbor and its marina have become the priority. In January, the port formally assumed control of the marina from the city of Langley, hired a full-time harbormaster and is now in the permitting process for the marina’s first phase, designed to allow a total of 84 slips and dockage space for larger vessels by 2011.

Enell said he sees the port as being an economic driver for all of South Whidbey, but there must be nothing that extracts resources or causes an increase in traffic, such as big-box retailers.

He plans to continue to discuss all the issues with the people of the South End.

“I want to hear from those with ideas on how the port can act as a catalyst for a more self-sustaining community and less of a bedroom community,” he said.

Jerome said he believes economic development should be the port’s primary mission, and commissioners should continue to create a solid and successful financial foundation in support of future projects.

He’s looking forward to a constructive campaign and welcomes the idea of debates with Enell before the general election.

“I’ve been posting some ideas on my Web site and, when appropriate, contributing to the discussions on the Langley Community Forum,” Jerome said. “The more people I can talk with, the better understanding I have of what their concerns are. It’s important to listen carefully.”

Jerome added that the debate the community needs to have is how best to move forward.

Even before the final count was registered, Helsel spent Wednesday morning taking down his campaign signs at his clock shop in Langley and at the marina.

“I’m getting tired of looking at them,” he said.

“I think it’s all over for me. I was born at night, but not last night.”

Jerome did best in the Sandy Point Precinct, where he took 36 percent of the vote, according to unofficial, early vote tallies.

Enell did well in Useless Bay 1, with 36 percent, and in Useless Bay 2 with 42 percent.

The winner will fill the seat being vacated by Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle, who decided against seeking another term.

The changing face of the port commission will continue. Lynae Slinden, representing Clinton, announced last week she is resigning to pursue other interests, leaving first-term Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert as the senior commissioner in January.

To fill the position vacated by Slinden on the commission, a special three-day filing period begins at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 24. If more than two candidates file, there will be no primary and the person with the greatest number of votes in November wins the election and will serve out the remaining four years of Slinden’s six-year term.

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