Election 2021: Q&A with candidates for Edmonds Port District Commissioner Position 5 at large

Three candidates are running for Edmonds Port District Commissioner Position 5 at large: incumbent Steve Johnston and challengers Selena Killin and Scott Marshall. All three will appear on the Aug. 3 primary election ballot that is scheduled to be mailed to Snohomish County voters July 15.

We emailed a questionnaire to all three candidates asking them to share more about their background, why they are running for Edmonds Port Commission, and the top challenges facing the port, both short and long term. Here are their responses, in alphabetical order:

Steve Johnston

Steve Johnston: My wife, Wendy, and I have lived in Edmonds and the Port District for nearly 45 years, and we raised our two grown sons here. I have been a Port of Edmonds Commissioner (Position 5, at large) since 2016, having initially been appointed to replace the retiring and outstanding Port Commissioner Mary Lou Block. I was elected to the position in 2017 and am now seeking a second full term. I am running for Port Commissioner because I believe my combination of environmental and engineering project management, corporate business, maritime, and waterfront experience and expertise have served and will continue to serve the Port and greater community well-and frankly, because I have a great passion for the Port of Edmonds and the community it serves. My professional experience includes more than 35 years of experience as an environmental consultant, the last 10 years as CEO of a major regional engineering and environmental firm.  I have extensive waterfront and public port project management experience, knowledge of public ports, and specifically the Port of Edmonds through my long-term (20-year) role as an environmental consultant to the Port during my working career, and later as a Commissioner. I have a degree in planning from the University of Virginia and extensive additional coursework in engineering and environmental project and firm management. I am also a retired U.S. Navy officer, with years of maritime and port security experience. My experience includes service on the board and as chairman of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies, Washington State, where I have also been a judge of the Association’s annual Engineering Excellence Awards for the past 5 years. I have been a member of the Washington Public Ports Association for the past 25 years and represented the Association as a member of the Governor’s Southern Resident Killer Whale (Orca) Task Force. I also served on the Board of the Association of Washington Business for eight years. Additionally, I have served the community as a volunteer as a Pacific Little League coach, at the Edmonds Arts Festival, and as the business representative on the steering committee at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

My five years of experience as a commissioner has given me specific insight on what it takes to successfully develop financial, environmental, and business development policies for the Port of Edmonds. I am proud to have been part of the port’s success in all areas, as a commissioner and as a past or current member of the port’s Finance, Environmental, and Communications committees. I have served in every officer position on the Port Commission at least once during my tenure. I hope to be a part of the port’s future success as we move into a very exciting time in the port’s history, with the reconstruction of the north seawall, improvements to the Portwalk, and development of the  new administrative and maintenance building over the next few years, the two biggest projects undertaken by the Port since the replacement of the collapsed marina 25 years ago.

The top three challenges facing the Port of Edmonds:

  • Oversight and completion of the port’s two planned capital projects: Over the next five years, a major port challenge will be successfully reconstructing the deteriorating north seawall and improving and beautifying the overlying Portwalk (promenade) to enhance public access and amenities. We will also be constructing a new administration/maintenance building to the east of Anthony’s.  This building will be built to LEED standards, incorporating environmentally-friendly materials, construction practices, and solar energy, among other features.  We will also be razing the old administrative building to facilitate public amenities and improve public access to the waterfront. These projects will require careful and responsible analysis of funding sources and management of consultant teams through completion.
  • Continuing to sustain and maintain our 5-star marina and commercial buildings as they age:  This effort will require ongoing and increasing expenditures to keep our facilities financially viable and to continuously protect and increase the value of the port’s assets for the benefit of the public. Our financial model developed over the past 10 years has been highly effective in providing the revenue stream required to maintain and improve our facilities and create the reserves required to support new capital projects. It will continue to be a challenge to keep up with the maintenance and replacement demands posed by our aging infrastructure and facilities.
  • Continuing to improve our program of effective environmental stewardship: We will continue to manage the port’s practices, buildings, facilities, and operations in a manner that promotes environmental health and reflects the values of our port and community. We have incorporated innovative practices for treating stormwater and wash water from our roofs, paved surfaces, and marina support facilities, and eliminated the use of harmful herbicides from our nearshore areas to improve the quality of runoff to the marsh and marina. We have converted our HVAC systems to more energy-efficient systems, transitioned to LED lighting where feasible, and will be replacing our old administration/maintenance building with a LEED-certified, energy-efficient building that will incorporate eco-friendly materials and a rooftop solar array to reduce our carbon footprint. It remains a challenge to evaluate new equipment and energy technologies and capabilities as they come online through the lens of balanced functionality and environmental benefit.

In addition to the professional experience and expertise described above, I bring a sincere interest in making the Port of Edmonds even better and increasing its value to the public, both as a viable public asset that supports many family-wage jobs along the waterfront and at Harbor Square, and as a beautiful, fun place for families to enjoy the waterfront and Portwalk and the recreational opportunities afforded at the marina, including boating, whale-watching ventures, concerts, and arts events.I bring the quality of independent thought and analysis in support of my decision-making on behalf of the public and the port. I strongly believe that we should respect the fact that this is a non-partisan position.  I personally seek and accept endorsements from individuals only–not parties, politically aligned organizations, or for that matter any organization. I am endorsed by many civic leaders from Edmonds and Woodway who value my community service, environmental and engineering professionals who are aware of my applicable experience and expertise, and close associates who can speak to my character and integrity, all important attributes in representing the citizens of the community.  I strongly believe that community support is far more relevant than political support for non-partisan elected positions. I bring a great respect for my fellow port commissioners, who collectively govern with transparency and clarity of purpose, and who exercise prudence, balance, and respect for the public and each other in the decision-making process. While we do not always agree, we reach and support consensus decisions and do so with civility and mutual trust. I bring a profound appreciation for those who love the port and our community. I am highly honored to have served as Port Commissioner for the past five years.

Selena Killin

Selena Killin: For the past 12 years, I have been a Shoreline Elementary Educator, which has helped me to cultivate the strong leadership, communication and collaboration skills vital to the role of port commissioner. I have served as an innovative Executive Board Member for the Shoreline Education Association, and am currently a member of the Washington Education Association. As the owner of a small family business in Edmonds, I’ve gained valuable experience creating, advocating, and planning for sustainable economic success. With my leadership, our company has been able to navigate through this challenging economic landscape. I would love the opportunity to be an active participant and advocate in public leadership for our hometown of Edmonds – a place that is special to all of us. In the various leadership roles I’ve held throughout my life, I have always felt deeply connected, valued and an effective representative. My husband and I settled in Edmond’s Port District about six years ago, eager to raise our children amongst the unique community values of this area. We are grateful to live a short walk to the majestic beaches, beautiful parks and unique downtown shops and eateries that Edmonds residents enjoy.

It is my opinion that the Port of Edmonds is consistently facing the challenge of innovation and progress versus conservation and preservation. Our scenic waterfront and marsh are an important ecosystem for wildlife and a family-friendly destination that Edmonds residents rely upon for entertainment and relaxation. Balance is key to the Port’s current and future decision making processes. It is critical to preserve Edmonds’ charm and essence while creating effective economic growth that will benefit all residents and business owners.

Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall: I’ve lived in Edmonds for 30 years, in Port District 1, and graduated from Western Washington University, majoring in manufacturing engineering. Since then I have been consistently involved in political activism, taking on the role of Field Director for 3 congressional campaigns, and volunteer organizer for a successful Seattle City Council race. As a longtime environmental activist, I am running to protect the crown jewel of Edmonds, our beaches and marina.  It would be my honor to defend the port against any attempt to soil the natural beauty of Edmonds. But it is climate change that got me into politics in the first place, and there is so much more we could be doing, even on the local level. If elected, I will push to make the Port of Edmonds carbon negative, not just carbon neutral. To aid this transition, I will fight for the installation of solar panels throughout the Port. As the only Democratic PCO in this race, I want to bring our shared progressive values to the Port of Edmonds, and I’m honored to be endorsed by the Snohomish County Democrats as well as the 21st Legislative District Democrats.  With years of political activism behind me, I have assumed leadership roles in the democratic party and other activist organizations, including chair, and I want to preserve nature’s beauty for future generations to enjoy.

In the short term, the Port of Edmonds faces the challenge of building a new administration/maintenance building, as well as replacing the boardwalk. Both of these should be done as environmentally friendly as possible, and the new building should be built to meet Passive House certification, not just LEED certification. A third short-term challenge is the daylighting of Willow Creek to restore the hydraulic connection between Puget Sound and the Edmonds Marsh, an effort I fully support. The long-term challenge facing the Port of Edmonds is the threat of climate change.  Science is the study of reality, and climate science shows carbon emissions must shrink to avoid a future where Edmonds no longer has a beach for future generations to enjoy. I will fight for the installation of Solar Panels throughout the Port of Edmonds.  This will reduce carbon emissions AND act as a stable long term financial investment.

As a longtime environmental activist, as well as a young person who will see the long-term results of climate change, I bring an awareness of, and urgency to, reducing the carbon footprint of the Port of Edmonds. Additionally, even though over 30% of the voters in Edmonds are under 40 years old, 0% of the Port of Edmonds commissioners are under 40. I hope to represent the younger generations at the Port of Edmonds, and bring our perspective to diversify the views of the port commissioners.



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