Chehalis Port Commission Appoints Local Manufacturing Business Owner to Vacant Port Seat

Appointment: Candidates for Open Position Still Facing Off in November Election


Paul Ericson, owner and president of Chehalis-based Shelton Structures and a board member for the Lewis Economic Development Council, was appointed Thursday to fill a vacant seat on the Port of Chehalis Commission.

The two remaining port commissioners chose Ericson over former Chehalis Mayor Fred Rider to represent Port District No. 2 following interviews with both candidates. The decision is relatively moot as the seat is up for election this November and both candidates have filed to run for the position.

Ericson will take his oath of office at the next port meeting on June 24. He will serve through the November general election, at which point the candidate chosen by the voters will complete the rest of the term through the end of 2025.

Former commissioner Ken Kostick’s resignation in April put in motion the events leading to Ericson’s appointment. Kostick, who resigned after he moved out of his district, served in the seat for more than 13 years.

“This is not to be construed as an endorsement of either candidate,” said Commissioner Mark Anders after making a motion to appoint Ericson.

A local business owner who has lived and worked in Chehalis for 13 years, according to application materials, Ericson has also served on the Chehalis Industrial Commission, Flood Control District No. 1 and has been involved with the Chehalis Activators sports club.

“My experience with shared problem solving as well as my experience as a business owner will be an asset,” Ericson wrote in his application. “I feel that I am a good communicator that easily connects with people and I have a vested interest in the growth and sustainability of the community.”

His company, Shelton Structures, is currently located in the Chehalis Industrial Park. Shelton Structures is described as a “leading manufacturer of laminated roof decking and custom glulam beams,” according to its website, and also produces customer-specific engineered wood products.

During his public interview with Anders and fellow Commissioner Mark Giffey, Ericson several times underscored the “generosity” he’s witnessed within the community. He told commissioners the greatest assets of the community are the generosity, the people and its geographic location.

“But there’s just something about this town — it’s the generosity. I’ve been to a lot of places, and I’ve never quite seen the generosity of another community, financially. It seems to be a community that really cares about each other, helps people. The financial support is just really impressive,” Ericson told Giffey and Anders.

Likely due to his line of work, Ericson said he has a preference to see more manufacturing businesses in the port. He noted, though, that due to the port’s advantageous location between Portland and Seattle, it makes sense that it would draw interest from logistics and transportation sectors as well.

Ericson told the board he believes the community’s No. 1 challenge at the moment is the labor shortage. He believes that’s mostly been a problem with the head count rather than lack of skills.

“Everywhere I go, they’ve got a ‘now hiring’ sign,” he said.

Each candidate spoke with the board for about 20 minutes. Only two individuals provided public comment prior to the vote, and each was in favor of one of the candidates.

During the interviewing process, the board questioned Rider on how he believed his involvement in partisan politics would affect his ability to serve on the board. Rider, a community member of 36 years and the former Lewis County Republican Party chairman, said he’s attempted to set those aside during work on local boards.

“Obviously, my political beliefs are what they are and you can’t erase those. But that’s to be withdrawn and not part of when you make decisions,” Rider said. “I totally believe when I was chairman of the party, I had my stances and I stood for them, and that’s because of who I was representing. But when I sit in that seat, and it comes to decision, my job is to represent everybody in this community and what’s best for the port and the development of jobs for this community.”

He specifically mentioned his nonpartisan work with boards representing the Lewis County Seniors, Chehalis Eagles Aerie 1550 and Rotary Club of Twin Cities. He currently works as a sales engineer and safety director at ToledoTel.

Rider said the port is at a strategic advantage to siphon business away from the larger cities nearby as their industrial districts become too large to sustain any more business. When asked about the current labor shortage, Rider said one of the problems was drugs and finding people who can pass a drug test.

He cited infrastructure and lack of employee qualifications as the largest challenges in the community.

During the public comment period, Larry McGee spoke highly of Rider, saying he felt Rider has always attempted to set aside his political aspirations, noting that he’s always asked the tough questions.

McGee said he’s known him for more than 30 years and values his wide breadth of experience.