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.