After no one initially put their name forward to fill Position 3 on the Port of Coupeville board of commissioners, two Greenbank community members stepped up to make a race of it.
Patrick Kennedy and Mike Seraphinoff both filed during the county’s special filing period and believe the port will be better off for the discussions they’ve generated during their campaigns. Mohammad Mostafavinassab, who currently holds the seat, did not file for re-election.
“When I learned that no one had stepped up to declare their candidacy for my Greenbank area district, I attended a port meeting and afterwards decided it was my civic responsibility to volunteer for the position,” Kennedy said.
Likewise, Seraphinoff decided to run even after seeing Kennedy had filed because he hopes that a contested election would lead to public engagement in port business.
Both candidates come to the race with prior nonprofit board experience and a focus on managing the port’s current assets.
Kennedy said enhancing the port’s properties would be his highest priority as a board member.
“I understand several years back a comprehensive plan was developed for the assets with public participation,” he said in an email. “As we move out of the pandemic era, we need to immediately reengage with this vision, or develop a new one, before we can credibly take on greater challenges promoting economic vitality in our region.”
A good way to care for port properties is to invest in the professionals who manage them and minimize turnover of good employees, Kennedy said.
Less promising, in his eyes, is the potential acquisition of the A. J. Eisenberg Airport in Oak Harbor.
The port has been eyeing the airport for a while, though it has no definitive plans to purchase it at this point. Kennedy said before making a decision about whether he would support a purchase, he would want to see the port put significant effort into researching the airport’s economic potential, site liabilities and funding sources.
“If the port is deemed credible with its present stewardship of existing heritage assets, and the airport is shown to be financially viable, with all risks identified and mitigated, and there is an acceptable business plan with believable future assumptions, it would be something I would consider,” Kennedy said. “There is some work to be done to get to that point.”
Seraphinoff was even more hesitant to voice support for an airport purchase, saying he would rather see the port investigate less expensive options a little closer to home. According to him, there is a precedent of the Navy turning over lands it no longer needs to public use, and the Navy once talked about passing ownership of Outlying Field in Coupeville to the port.
“I’m a bit surprised that so many people just think that this is something that can’t happen,” he said. “I think we need to revisit that and maybe open some channels of communication with Navy personnel who would be responsible for such a turnover to the public.”
Though it’s been decades since that possibility was discussed, Seraphinoff said if the port is interested in owning an airport, he would like to see that discussion revisited before spending $2 million of taxpayer money on airport near Oak Harbor.
Seraphinoff also said he’s interested in making the public beach adjoining Greenbank Farm more easily accessible, increasing organic agriculture output from Greenbank Farm and bringing camping opportunities to Central Whidbey as a means of generating revenue for the port.
“I do think that since South Whidbey State Park no longer provides camping, that there are quite a few people who would love to have a place to come to Central Whidbey and camp, and I think we really ought to explore that,” he said.