Election View: Gary Jensen offers experience, communications skills

Gary Jensen is running for District 3 commissioner of the Port of Bellingham.
Gary Jensen is running for District 3 commissioner of the Port of Bellingham. Karen Herman

In August the voters of District 3 will choose a new commissioner for the Port of Bellingham. District No. 3 is loosely described as west of Guide Meridian, including Ferndale, Blaine and part of North Bellingham.

My name is Gary Jensen and I chose to ask for the voters support, after the incumbent commissioner asked me to consider the position. Jim Jorgensen has served as a port commissioner for the past 12 years. I’m proud that Jim Jorgensen has endorsed my campaign.

For the past ten years I have volunteered my time to serve my community here in Ferndale. Two years as a council member and the last eight years as our mayor. I have also owned a local plumbing company during this time. My wife is a local kindergarten teacher and I have one daughter who works for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. From my parents to my brother, Al Jensen, community service has always been part of our lives. There can be no other logical reason to volunteer for a political office than the desire to make things better in the place you call home.

If you combine direct and indirect jobs, the Port of Bellingham effects more working families than anyone in Whatcom County. The port’s mission is to attract and retain jobs for our citizens through public and private investment. With their direct management of the Bellingham airport and both harbors at Blaine and Bellingham, they touch and effect all of us.

As a local business person and small-city mayor, I have interactions with the port on many occasions. The port organizes the small city caucus each month. They fund small city development grants, foreign trade zones, revolving loan funds and industrial revenue bonds.

The role of a port commissioner deals with a wide variety of complex issues involving all of Whatcom County. Having business experience, management experience and the knowledge and stress of signing both sides of a paycheck would be valuable. Having the political experience of working together with a wide variety of personalities to improve your community would be important.

If you drive through Ferndale, you might notice a new library, a new police and emergency operations center, a soon to be open, new community center. You might see two new parks, and improved streets. You might see new business and expanded existing business. This was not achieved by any single individual but a community working together. Having the experience of working together as a team, can achieve dreams. That has always been the success of Whatcom County.

The Port of Bellingham has been part of that equation since 1920. The future can be just as bright if managed correctly. How many other communities would like a large swath of land, virtually empty and right on a large body of water? A blank canvas for creating clean, green employment opportunities while still enhancing all of our natural, human attraction to the water.

The goal of my campaign is to help our Port of Bellingham get better. As we have in Ferndale, the goal is to constantly look for ways to engage our citizens. Our Facebook page in Ferndale is one of the most used in the state (little, old Ferndale). There is a reason for that. Good or bad, you must engage with citizens. Having meetings that are more assessable to citizens must always be a goal.

It may be time to look at the makeup of a three-member commission. Three members does ensure that each and every conversation between commissioners must occur in an open meeting. That in itself is a valuable item for the public. It does however prohibit any conversation outside the official meeting. Expanding the total commission membership may bring more diversity of opinions. City and county councils all have seven members for many reasons. Some ports have five.

Being a local politician is at times hard-learned and hard-earned experience. It does have value to the community to have an elected official with a past you can study. The basis is still your desire to serve. Your ability and experience to make what may be many, many difficult decisions that are based in the thought “What is good for the whole community”?

Thank you for reading this and remember to vote.


This is one of a series of commentaries from candidates in the Aug. 4 primary election. Gary S. Jensen, is one of three challengers in the non-partisan election for a 4-year term as Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 3. District 3 includes Lummi Island, Ferndale, Blaine and other northwest county communities. Incumbant Jim Jorgensen is not seeking re-election.