Four vie for Ilwaco port commission position

Richard "Dick" Watrous, Dave Nichols<BR>Edwin Erola and John O'Phelan

ILWACO - Richard "Dick" Watrous, 81, has been a Port of Ilwaco commissioner for two years and was appointed to replace Paul Polillo after he resigned.

A native of DesMoines, Iowa, his family moved to Camas during the Depression in 1931. He retired as a maintenance supervisor from Crown Zellerbach in 1982 and moved to the Peninsula where he had been coming to fish for 50 years. He has three grown children.

1. What do you believe qualifies you to be a good port commissioner?

Watrous served on the Port of Camas commission for six years and was chairman for three years. He managed the Camas port for a little less than a year before he recruited the present manager in 1983. He operated a charter boat for a short time.

A restaurant/condominium/conference center is a dream for the future for Watrous, located on the land where dredge material is now stored. A couple of expansions of existing port businesses and new construction also are good for the port, he said.

2. How would you balance the port's growth and its limited revenues?

"The port doesn't have enough land," he said, "and we've run out of space. We need to look for 60 to 100 acres, maybe in Naselle, for an industrial park." (Naselle is in the Port of Ilwaco's district.) The port needs more land to promote economic growth, Watrous said. "That's what a port is for. We need to go after more grants. We've accomplished so much in the last two and a half years. (Port Manager) Mack Funk and the staff are outstanding. The staff are doing more and more of their own work. And now we have a pile-driver and Jessie's new plant is coming in."

3. What should the port's relationship be with the city of Ilwaco?

The port's relationship with the city is "getting better," Watrous said. "At times we were at loggerheads, but now we have a good relationship. That's very important. We're closely interwoven with the city and we all have the same objective.

4. What should the port do with its airport?

"The port doesn't get one cent from the airport," Watrous said. "We just pour money into it. We need a master plan right away. When that's completed, the FAA will fund projects and construction such as better security, hangars and a fueling station for planes."

Dave Nichols, 51, operates the Port of Ilwaco's fuel dock and is challenging Commissioner Richard "Dick" Watrous for his District 2 seat on the commission. He and his wife, Diane, live in Ilwaco and have a grown daughter.

1. What do you believe qualifies you to be a good port commissioner?

"I have 36 years of history with the port, beginning as a bait boy when I was in high school," Nichols said. "I've been a sport and commercial fisherman all my life and ran the boat hoist at the port for many years. I know as well as anyone the workings of the port."

Nichols said he is running for the commission seat "because local commercial and charter fishermen asked me to run."

2. How would you balance the port's growth and its limited revenues?

"I live by being practical and take pride in my common sense," Nichols said. "I have a vast background in plumbing and as a heavy equipment operator and have a master's license as a skipper. I'm here all the time and I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty. That's what I'd be bringing to the commissioners' table."

3. What should the port's relationship be with the city of Ilwaco?

"Communication is the key" with the city, Nichols said. The monthly port/city meetings are "going well and Mack (Funk) is a great communicator and a good facilitator. What's good for the city is good for the port and what's good for the port is good for the city. We're striving for a common goal and continued open communication."

4. What should the port do with its airport?

The airport is a "great asset to the community," Nichols said. "Some want it widened, lengthened and improved. We need to research the cost vs. its benefit to the community and look at aesthetic and environmental issues. It should be enlarged and improved."

Edwin Erola, 51, is challenging Richard "Dick" Watrous for his District 2 position on the Port of Ilwaco Commission. He grew up in Naselle and lives in Chinook with his wife Rebecca and daughter Elaina.

1. What do you believe qualifies you to be a good port commissioner?

Erola says he has been involved in many facets of the marine industry for 30 years and was a port engineer in Alaska. He currently manufactures aluminum boats at his Chinook business, Edwing Boat Inc., which he's operated for 20 years. "I've spent many years dealing with the boating public," he said. "I feel I have a good concept of what is required and what is desired by the boating public and I'm around the port on a daily basis." (He recently completed a contract with the port constructing doors for the boatyard building.) He says he has a "good understanding" of the port's problems and desires and "feels a responsibility to represent my constituency and the people of the Peninsula to see that their tax dollars are spent in a prudent manner."

Erola feels that the port is taxing the residents of Naselle and "should look and see what services could be provided for them" such as a new boat launch. "We have to look into this," he said. "I'm more than willing to look at all suggestions to help the general public."

2. How would you balance the port's growth and its limited revenues?

The port is working with two groups - commercial fishermen and the yacht owners," Erola said. "My main basis would be with the commercial industry," he said. "We can't forget they're here year round. The port provides moorage for yachters, but for job creation and convenience of the local residents, I'd like to see cross-dock delivery maintained, off-loading gear, and a dock crane for product delivery and convenience of port customers. This needs to be looked at." Newport and Astoria have cross-dock delivery, Erola said. "It would create the revenue to pay for it."

Erola said the port "has gone into the equipment acquisition business heavily. I'm not sure it will benefit the local population. I don't know if it's the best way to do things. The reason the port is there is to benefit the local economy. The question needs to be asked - where do they draw the line?"

3. What should the port's relationship be with the city of Ilwaco?

"There is a great relationship right now," Erola said. "The port customers are the largest group that buys utilities from the city. It's a good symbiotic relationship. I would represent my constituency if elected and act as a sounding board for the community and port clients."

4. What should the port do with its airport?

The airport represents a possibility for revenue for the port, Erola said, "but an infrastructure must be developed or it should be leased to someone who will develop it. Hangars would be desirable. The Port of Astoria has hangars and has done well enough with them." Lighting and possibly fencing to deter vandalism also is needed at the airport, he said, as well as a fuel and maintenance facility.

The port should "go all the way" with the airport master plan, Erola said. "That's expected at small airports. As a fixed-base operator, fueling needs to be looked into. The port needs to look at its infrastructure, not machinery."

John O'Phelan, 62, is running for a six-year term on the Port of Ilwaco Commission in District 2, challenging incumbent Richard Watrous.

1. What do you believe qualifies you to be a good port commissioner?

O'Phelan has operated small business and owned and operated the 48-foot charter boat Leprechaun at Columbia Bar Charters from 1976 to 1982. His family's roots go back several generations in Pacific County. His grandfather, John I. O'Phelan, was the City of Ilwaco's attorney and served as a Pacific County Superior Court judge in the 1940s.

He says that, among his qualifications is an "extensive background in accounting and finance with more than 30 years of analytical and management experience in banking and commercial finance." He has been with ShoreBank Pacific in Ilwaco for the past five years with responsibilities including credit administration and commercial lending. "At ShoreBank, we have provided financing for commercial and charter fishing boats, seafood processors and clients in various other industries, including restaurants, hospitality and retail sales," he said.

He and his wife, Randi, have two grown children. O'Phelan and his wife are active in civic affairs, including the Long Beach Area Lions Club, and are active in their church.

"My skills include financial analysis and evaluation of alternative solutions to resolve issues and attain desired results. I believe my familiarity with the primary industries which are critical to the success of the Port of Ilwaco, together with my managerial and analytical background, will permit me to be a strong Port of Ilwaco commissioner," he said.

2. How would you balance the port's growth and its limited revenues?

"The critical issue confronting any entity, large or small," O'Phelan said, "is to maintain the continued growth of the revenues and resources while being constrained by limited resources. The Port of Ilwaco is no different. The leadership must define and prioritize the goals for the port and continue to review key metrics for success. Budgets must be realistically crafted and frequently reviewed for comparison to actual results."

O'Phelan added that the port "has surrounded itself with a competent staff which has been very resourceful in negotiating purchases and in securing various private and governmental grants as well as financing at beneficial rates."

3. What should the port's relationship be with the city of Ilwaco?

"The mission and the goals for the Port of Ilwaco and the city of Ilwaco should not be diametrically opposed," O'Phelan said. "That is not to say that the goals are opposed. However, wherever possible, a neighborly spirit of, as the old college saying goes, 'cooperate and graduate' should be the desired result and issues which do arise should be resolved objectively."

4. What should the port do with its airport?

O'Phelan, whose wife is a pilot and an airframe and powerplant mechanic, said the port's airport is "uncontrolled, with a 2,070-foot by 50-foot runway and pilot-controlled lights and beacon. The airport should be a positive element for the economic development of the port, the city and the Long Beach Peninsula in general."

A master plan for the port is a "good idea," he said. "It would be a definite asset to the port." O'Phelan said he feels providing T-hangars for rent would produce revenue to the port.

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