Of all the answers to questions posed by The Chronicle Editorial Board during a series of local election debates, none were more puzzling than one offered by Port of Centralia Commission challenger Paul Crowner.
When asked what benefits Port of Centralia businesses bring to the community other than jobs, Crowner seemed to have difficulty finding an answer.
“Other than jobs, uh, I am not sure that all of them bring benefits, first of all,” he replied. “As I’ve been out and about, traffic is one thing that people constantly bring up and I think that’s one of the negatives.”
Crowner did say that some businesses brought good people to the community.
Incumbent Kyle Markstrom, by contrast, correctly highlighted that port businesses provide nearly $4.5 million in property taxes, equal to about 9 percent of all the property taxes generated in the district.
He also noted the contributions of port businesses to schools, sports teams and programs at Centralia College.
As for valid concerns about traffic, his answer was likewise illuminating.
“Traffic is a struggle just about anywhere you go nowadays,” Markstrom said. “I think if you go to a community that doesn’t have any traffic issues, it’s probably a sign that it’s a dying community.”
While we respect Crowner’s willingness to pursue public office, he doesn’t appear to have experience that would help guide him. As a career educator and music teacher, he certainly has worked for the greater good. But Markstrom’s background in the business sector and specifically his experience moving a company — the one where he works as a high-level manager — to the Port of Centralia is invaluable.
Additionally, it seems as though Crowner is pursuing office simply due to his disdain for the port rather than his hopes of seeing it grow and support the local tax base.
If elected, he’d likely work in tandem with commissioner Peter Lahmann to undercut the leadership at the Port of Centralia and fundamentally downgrade one of the most effective governments in the Lewis County area.
His reference to the Centralia Station project as a “debacle” is likewise troubling.
While progress has been slow, the project is poised to have a positive impact on the local economy while providing additional — and much needed — jobs for residents.
Markstrom says the port should be a leader in creating jobs and economic development.
Crowner suggested the port should be an environmental force that “can even be a leader in the community showing the way to best handle climate change.” Of course he says he supports bringing better jobs, too, but we wonder what he could do personally to accomplish that goal.
Crowner seems to misunderstand the role of the port and its history.
The Port of Centralia has been a force for good in the community. The UNFI Distribution Center alone has not only provided hundreds of jobs and brought an essential supply chain industry to our community, but the transaction also resulted in much of the tax revenue invested by the City of Centralia in the promising United Learning Center in downtown Centralia.
There has been no greater job creator in Lewis County than the Port of Centralia.
A candidate who looks at projects and new companies and sees only traffic issues lacks the vision to serve effectively on the Port of Centralia Commission.
Markstrom on the other hand has the vision and expertise to build on the success of the Port of Centralia. His involvement in the community — including in the creation of an impactful foundation in the memory of his late son — is proof he is in it for the right reasons.
For the continued growth and success of the Port of Centralia, voters should enthusiastically cast their ballots for Markstrom.
Editorial board note: Chronicle Owner-Publisher Chad Taylor is a financial supporter of the Committee to Elect Kyle Markstrom. Paul Crowner is a former Chronicle columnist and worked for years as the paper’s Newspapers in Education manager.