Bennett, Backman seek Port 2 commission seat


October 14, 2021

Two people are candidates for election to a position on the board of commissioners of Port District 2 of Wahkiakum County.

Allen Bennett is the incumbent; he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Lee Tischer, who had resigned after being elected to the county board of commissioners. Former county Commissioner Mike Backman is also a candidate for the position. Both own property on Puget Island and would represent that portion of the port district.

The Eagle invited the two candidates to submit statements about their candidacies. Here are their responses:

Mike Backman

I am a third-generation resident of Wahkiakum and a commercial fisherman with the experience of a two-term county commissioner. I feel that between my experience and my schedule I could represent residents well in and out of the county. If elected, I hope to move the port to collaborate with other entities and focus more energy on economic development. I would also like to try to explore options for agro-tourism. Mostly I would try to hear and respond to the will of the people.

Allen Bennett

I am asking the citizens of Wahkiakum County to elect me as Port District 2 Commissioner 1 based on my education, career experience and accomplishments in this position over the past eight months. I am currently filling the Port District 2 Commissioner position vacated by Lee Tischer when he was elected county commissioner.

As a county resident for the past 15 years, I am attuned to what our community needs in an elected official, and my military and civilian careers uniquely qualify me for election as commissioner. I retired as a Senior Program Manager for an international engineering and design/build firm specializing in geological systems. I also served for 30 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve, specializing in port operational security, maritime counterterrorism, and harbor defense. My work with personnel in both domestic and international ports led to a solid understanding of the issues and requirements of port management, security, and day-to-day operations.

In my civilian career I advanced from a field geologic technician to a senior program manager position, ultimately managing teams of over 100 personnel and annual program budgets of over $20 million. I have had significant experience working with and managing various stakeholders, clients, and regulatory agencies throughout my careers. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Geology and Chemistry at the University of California San Diego.

In my eight months as an appointed commissioner, I have worked closely with the port district manager and other commissioners to identify and sell excess port property to generate funds for community initiatives. I have provided integral support for the impending purchase of a property which will be developed into a key future asset of the port’s economic development mission. In addition, I have served as the port’s representative to the Wahkiakum Marine Resources Committee, recently assisting the members in allocating state grant funding to over a dozen local organizations providing needed services. I have also served as the port district’s representative with the Wahkiakum Sheriff’s Office, working closely with them when needed to address issues regarding the port or its properties.

I am running for this position as I enjoy the challenge of working with a team on various and diverse issues affecting our community and to provide consistent, cost-effective and fiscally responsible, and fit-for-purpose solutions to these issues. My main goals will be to aggressively support the continued success of Skamokawa Vista Park as our main economic engine of tourism while actively searching and working toward identifying and developing other economic opportunities to bring family wage jobs to our community. I will actively work to further develop Port District 2 properties on Puget Island as well as other areas within our county.

I have been active in several local volunteer community organizations, including 14 years with the Wahkiakum County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team, three years as a firefighter/EMT in Cathlamet, the Wahkiakum County Fair Board, and the Wahkiakum County Emergency Preparedness Committee.

I have had the benefit of eight months in this position to prepare me to do my very best for the residents of our county. When elected I am ready on day one to be an effective port commissioner. I will rely on my leadership, management, and business acumen gained in my military and civilian careers to provide my constituents with the best possible guidance and decisions regarding fiscal responsibility, and the mission and operation of Port District 2.


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