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Voters face choice between two analytical minds for port

Langley voters are down to two choices for Position 2 for the Port of South Whidbey board.

Dean Enell and Chris Jerome are both vying to fill the seat now held by Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle, who decided against seeking another six years on the board when his term expires in December.

Both Enell and Jerome promise to ring a raft of new ideas to the position.

Dean Enell

Enell, 61, has lived on South Whidbey for 20 years. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington, he spent his working life as a software engineer for the aerospace industry and worked at Boeing. He is now retired.

He’s never held an elective office, but ran unsuccessfully for Island County commissioner in 2004. Recently, he’s been heavily involved in the Freeland incorporation effort.

“I’ve been involved in local progressive movements for most of my 20 years here, including being a founding member and chairman of Whidbey Washington Conservation Voters, Hearts & Hammers house captain and board member of the South Whidbey Children’s Center,” he said.

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

Enell favors enterprises that fit the island’s rural character, such as cottage industries and businesses that rely on information technology. He believes the port could establish small office spaces that would provide start-up high-tech businesses a place to operate while paying rent to the port.

He said he supported the marina bond effort and applauded the current commissioners for making inroads to improve the marina.

“The marina is priority number one, and I’m in favor of going to the taxpayers again because the marina would benefit the entire island,” he said.

Enell said he had doubts about a port takeover of Whidbey Airpark.

“The idea of an airport out there would stimulate the economy, but the location isn’t the best and it would take up huge resources to build and operate,” he said. “Access is a huge concern as well.”

Enell said he favors making the port’s boat launch operations at least revenue-neutral.

“Most of the port’s resources now go into providing access for boaters,” he said. “Highlighted by the recession, the port needs to branch out.”

Enell’s Web site can be found at www2.whidbey.net/dino/thecandidate.

Chris Jerome

Jerome, 54, is a native of London, England. After studying veterinary medicine, he got his doctorate’s degree in comparative pathology at the University of California at Davis.

He then moved to Seattle to run a medical research company, Skeletech, and moved to Whidbey in 1997.

Today, Jerome is a scientific consultant who does medical research from his Langley home.

“I’m mainly interested in the economic development aspects of the port,” he said. “I have a boat in the marina, and I believe the future of the harbor is important for the health of the entire South End.”

Jerome has started and run three businesses. One of them attracted $8 million in investment and grew under his management to more than 40 employees.

Jerome said his experiences in acquiring venture capital gave him valuable knowledge about the investment process.

“I believe economic development should be the port’s primary mission,” he said. “The port simply can’t afford to be a ‘parks department’ unless it has a solid and successful financial foundation.”

He said there’s a constant drumbeat at port meetings about money being spent at properties such as Freeland Park or Bush Point and thinks they could be made financially sustainable through launching fees.

“It appears that current port expenditures lean heavily toward maintenance of marine and beach access without much in the way of revenue-producing or economic development potential,” he said.

He said that creating an atmosphere where entrepreneurs can succeed fits perfectly into the port’s six-year comprehensive plan.

“We should look at incubator buildings for businesses,” he said. “We can bring investors to the island in a partnership with the port. It’s one thing to have a concept, another to bring in the money that will create quality jobs that pay a living wage.”

Jerome said he wouldn’t rule out going to the taxpayers for a major capital project.

“But the best option is to be financially self-supporting so that revenue and expenses are more evenly matched,” he noted.

Jerome’s Web site is at chrisjerome4psw.com.

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