Asset management top issue in port race

Crockett Lake Water District Commissioner Marianne Burr is facing insolvency lawyer Bradley Duncan.

Two candidates for an open seat on the Port of Coupeville Board of Commissioners have similar priorities for the district.

Crockett Lake Water District Commissioner Marianne Burr and longtime insolvency lawyer Bradley Duncan are vying for the District 1 seat on the port commission, which incumbent David Day will vacate at the end of this term.

Burr is likely a familiar face to those who have paid attention to port affairs over the last decade; the candidate first began attending port meetings as a newly elected water district commissioner in 2010 to learn more about how small government bodies operate. Not only did she find the meetings “entertaining,” she said, but as a Central Whidbey resident deeply invested in the future of the reason, she became invested in the port’s operations.

The port’s properties — the historic Coupeville Wharf and the Greenbank Farm — set the tone for Central Whidbey, Burr said, and she regularly speaks up about them during the public comment period of port meetings.

“I finally have the chance to really be heard as a commissioner,” she said.

Duncan comes to the race with more than three decades of legal experience. An eastern Washington native, Duncan moved with his wife to Whidbey Island two years ago after 17 years in the Snoqualmie Valley.

As an insolvency lawyer, Duncan said he has spent his career working with entities that “require significant financial supervision” and feels his experience would aid in the responsible management of port funds and assets.

“My primary impetus is thinking about ways that I can take my skill set and use them to contribute to the community,” he said.

Duncan and Burr each said the primary responsibility of the port is to care for the wharf and the farm. For Burr, this means honing in on necessary maintenance projects at the properties, especially now that the port has industrial development district tax funds to devote to capital projects.

While potential new ideas and projects might be exciting, the port commissioners need to devote their attention and energy to the assets the port already has.

“I think there will be a time for good ideas, but it’s not right now,” she said, citing the port’s recent failed attempt to purchase the A.J. Eisenberg Airport, now the DeLaurentis Airport, in Oak Harbor as an example of port officials missing the mark. “If we don’t watch the present, there might not be a future.”

Duncan said he is likewise committed to maintaining port assets, saying the district “cannot take its eye off of that ball.” The candidate added, however, that port commissioners should be open to opportunities to increase the port’s revenue in ways that could support that mission.

He said he is interested in exploring the possibility of expanding the port district’s footprint, thus increasing its tax base, so that more Whidbey residents would help support the properties which are an important part of the whole island’s identity.

The general election will take place Nov. 7.

Bradley Duncan

Bradley Duncan