Petranek to become Port of Port Townsend’s first
Fauls to continue work in customer service
By Brian McLean, Peninsula Daily News
Thursday, November 7, 2019
PORT TOWNSEND — The Port of Port Townsend will soon have its first female commissioner.
Jefferson County voters favored Pam Petranek over Chuck Fauls in preliminary election results on Tuesday.
Petranek, 59, received 71.5 percent of 7,735 votes in the District 1 position, while Fauls, 66, had 28.6 percent.
About 4,000 ballots remained to be counted in the county-wide vote, the auditor’s office said Wednesday.
Updated tallies are scheduled to be released at 4 p.m. Friday.
The election will be certified Nov. 26.
Petranek said her campaign was built on her foundation of working as an active citizen advocate for the past four years. This is the first time she has sought public office.
“Our campaign mission was about this unique place we live, our shared maritime culture, heritage, our environment, and living-wage jobs for this and future generations,” she said. “I had a strong and clear statement for why I’m running, along with a proven track record of community building and success with port issues.”
Fauls, a customer service worker for the port, said it was an eye-opening experience as a first-time candidate.
“The enthusiasm and intensity of people was a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “When you’re not really involved in the actual process, you may have a tendency to think people are indifferent to the whole process, but that really isn’t the case. Everyone I met was very involved and very engaged.”
Petranek worked with Gwendolyn Tracy and the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association to develop through a national consultant the economic impact of the marine trades throughout the county.
Petranek said she also was a co-leader of a yard-rate study, a six-month process that has since helped the port bring in revenue through the boatyard.
“It’s about uniting people, not just the campaign, but developing relationships and uniting people to work together,” she said.
“I’m truly just one of the community who has been supported by a lot of people.”
Fauls said during the campaign he would leave his position to be a commissioner full-time if he was elected.
“I’d still be working for the port, which is something I thoroughly enjoy, just a different job within the organization,” he said.
His position allows him to work with customers in different areas. Fauls said he works at Point Hudson during the summer months and at the Boat Haven Marina during the winter.
“Here at Point Hudson, people for the most part are on vacation, so you have a different type of engagement,” he said. “At Boat Haven, you have more permanent tenants and yard tenants. You have a little diversity in the people you meet and what you’re dealing with on a day-to-day basis.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fine leather, linens and cloth hang from shelves on the walls of Gwendolyn Tracy’s workshop, Fine Yacht Interiors, situated above the Blue Moose Cafe at the Port Townsend boatyard. Pillows sit in stacks, large rolls of batting lean against walls, and wheels of ribbon in different colors hang from a rack. In the center is a large white work table, where Tracy cuts and measures cloth for the interior upholstering of yachts. For months, that table was covered in papers, laptops and the occasional mason jar filled with herbal tea — the signature drink of Pam Petranek, Tracy’s fellow Port Townsend Marine Trades Association member. From November 2017 to July 2018, Tracy and Petranek worked at that table, collected data, made calls and searched databases to compile a list of every marine trade business in Jefferson County. “Gwendolyn had a stool set up right here where the dirty work boots stayed,” Petranek said. “People sat right there and got their lists out, and we just started writing it all down.” All of that work was for one goal: to release an economic impact study of the maritime industry in Jefferson County, to show the port administration and county citizens that marine trades play a vital role in the local economy. “In the spring of 2017, the writing started coming on the wall that the way the port was viewing how to manage the infrastructure crisis wasn’t allowing for the existing businesses or incoming business to really thrive and grow,” Tracy said. “Over time, trust of the port to take care of what needed to be taken care of wasn’t high.” Leases weren’t getting renewed; Boat Haven marina’s stormwater wasn’t meeting the state Department of Ecology’s benchmarks; the Point Hudson jetty was still in need of repair; and the marine trade workers weren’t feeling their concerns were heard, Tracy said. “The port collects property tax money, and that leads to this perception that businesses here are subsidized by the taxpayers,” said Chris Sanok, chair of the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association board. “There was a lot of discussion about whether we could continue to afford being a port. It was these two (Tracy and Petranek) who came up with the idea that we fix this by showing the value of the marine trades to the community in a strict dollars-and cents kind of way.” The state Department of Commerce completed a similar economic impact study in 2017 that showed the maritime sector contributes more than $21.4 billion in gross business income and directly employs nearly 69,500 people in Washington. Not only that, Gov. Jay Inslee’s Maritime Blue program is working to make Washington the home of the nation’s most sustainable maritime industry by 2050, the study showed.
“The numbers statewide were astounding,” Sanok said. “They showed that the industry is a major part of Washington’s economy, but it wasn’t broken down by county. Gwendolyn and Pam said, ‘Let’s get our own numbers!’” An economic impact study done by a respected company can cost up to $70,000, Sanok said. The PTMTA, an association of marine trade workers in Jefferson County, only charges $50 for membership dues. “We talked to Martin & Associates, which also does a lot of port economic research and really liked the approach of Dr. John Martin,” Sanok said. “He’s very invested in portraying the economic value of the marine trades.” Martin & Associates, an internationally known economic and transportation consulting firm, cut the PTMTA a deal. “If Pam and Gwendolyn did all the work, he would give us a giant discount,” Sanok said.
So Tracy and Petranek got to work. In between their normal jobs upholstering boats and delivering Cape Cleare salmon by bicycle, they first catalogued all of the maritime businesses in the county, and then got economic data from each business, assuring business owners along the way their data would be protected. “We had people show up with lists on the backs of things, with phone numbers and names,” Tracy said. “We went online to the Washington shellfish wholesale list, the Alaska fish permit holders list.” They called people to make sure they were still in business, or to find out if they had moved. They had visits from business owners who would sit on a stool in Tracy’s workshop to give them information. “What we realized through calling people was that everybody was very much concerned and valued our working waterfront here,” Petranek said. “So many people had big stories to tell. … And there were a lot of people who were really upset, ready to move, and they were so thankful we were doing this study because it might turn the direction of the ship around.” Meanwhile, the PTMTA had to raise money to pay for the study, even though it was discounted. “We just work on boats,” Sanok joked. “We’ve never done that kind of fundraising. I haven’t ever asked anyone for that kind of money.” But the maritime community showed its support. At a one-night party hosted at the Port Townsend Brewery, $8,725 was raised, PTMTA treasurer Bob Frank said. With that fundraiser, plus individual donations, the PTMTA was ready for the study to be completed. The study, released in July 2018, concluded that the maritime sector accounts for 20 percent of all employment in Jefferson County. As the PTMTA had hoped, the published study “turned the ship around.” The port’s leadership changed, and the marine trade workers felt as though their voices were more heard, Sanok said. The experience also bonded the members of the PTMTA. Its membership has almost doubled in the past year, Tracy said. Now the county maritime workers have concrete evidence of the importance of the industry to the local economy. “I was surprised how people cared so deeply and so strongly about our working waterfront,” Petranek said. “They had invested their lives, they had invested their homes, the future of their children here. People were genuinely concerned and passionate about this community and how hard they had worked, and how much they wanted it to remain a part of our culture here. It is a part of our culture here.
You’ve probably seen her biking around town, pulling a long trailer decorated with salmon. Or maybe you recognize her from the farmers market, helping people pick out the perfect salmon for dinner at the Cape Cleare Fishery booth.
But most people, especially those who work in the marine trades, will recognize Pam Petranek from her work as an advocate for Jefferson County’s maritime industry. When she’s not delivering salmon for Cape Cleare, or working on restoring her troller at Boat Haven, Petranek, who has lived in Jefferson County since 2006, is at port commission meetings taking vigorous notes, speaking up and working with the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association to support the industry.
After attending Port Commission meetings since 2015 to speak up on behalf of the maritime industry, Petranek is hoping to move to the other side of the table: she announced her decision to run for the District 1 Port of Port Townsend Commissioner position on May 8.
Her official campaign will be launched with a kick-off party at 5:30 p.m. on May 23 at the Pope Marine building.
“Being commissioner is a natural progression of what I’ve already been doing,” she said. “I’ve been working with stakeholders, citizens and businesses to create proactive solutions.”
Petranek said she is hoping to bring a community effort to port decision making, with transparency and citizen involvement.
“There’s a whole community involved in this campaign,” said Liz Hoenig, Petranek’s campaign manager.
Since the “pitchfork meeting” of 2018, where over 100 concerned community members packed the port commission meeting to express their discomfort with the port’s financial decisions, Hoenig said there has been a community of people involved in coming up with ideas and solutions for the port.
“The pitchfork meeting was a situation where the administration at the port were proposing policies which were going to be devastating, raising rates which would put people out of business,” Hoenig said. “It coalesced this community effort, causing people to really dig into what was going on with this organization.”
Petranek and the board members of the PTMTA have been at the forefront of this community movement: funding a marine trades economic impact study to show how much money their industry generates for the county, a yard rates study to show how keeping yard rates low will encourage more people to come to Port Townsend to work, and coming up with solutions to historically preserve and renovate the failing Point Hudson jetty.
The marine trades study showed that the port is vital to the county’s economy, generating $12.6 million of state and local taxes in Jefferson County, with $5.8 million returned to Jefferson County and Port Townsend annually in tax revenue.
But the port is facing some major issues. Failing infrastructure such as the Point Hudson jetty, the breakwater at Boat Haven, and the Quilcene marina will cost millions to repair - money that the port does not have.
Financial accountability and maintaining sound business practices are one of Petranek’s priorities as she runs for commissioner, as is building public trust with informed public debate.
“Every time there is a proposal to do something we need to see where the money is coming from,” she said. “The public needs to see the whole financial picture.”
This means more transparency in the port’s budget, more regular financial reports, more citizen advisory boards, and public comment both before and after port commission meetings, she said.
Though she is the person running for commissioner, Petranek is backed by the support of the PTMTA, and she hopes that her community-run campaign will bring more voices to the table at port meetings.
“This is public-owned property and it’s ours to be able to create what works for us,” Petranek said. “All the decisions that the port makes are local decisions.”
While current port commissioner Steven Tucker is not planning to file for re-election, Petranek is not running unopposed. Port Townsend’s Chuck Fauls has also filed for the District 1 seat. See following editions of The Leader for more on Fauls and the race for port commissioner.Continue reading »