Primary Election features four contested races, EMS levy | 2021 Primary Election

Leader news staff
Posted 7/7/21

Four races for city council, school board, and fire commissioner — as well as an EMS levy in Quilcene — will be on the ballot for the Aug. 3 Primary Election.

In Port Townsend, three …

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Primary Election features four contested races, EMS levy | 2021 Primary Election


Four races for city council, school board, and fire commissioner — as well as an EMS levy in Quilcene — will be on the ballot for the Aug. 3 Primary Election.

In Port Townsend, three candidates will square off to advance in the contest for the Position 5 seat on the city council: Sky Hardesty-Thompson, Tyler Myles Vega, and Libby Urner Wennstrom.

For the Port Ludlow fire department, three candidates are also running for Commissioner Position 3 in Jefferson County Fire Protection District No. 3.

The candidates are Glenn T. Clemens, Mike Feely, and Ron Helmonds.

Some residents of Jefferson County will also cast ballots in the four-way race for Position 4 on the Sequim School Board. 

Derek Huntington, Virginia R. Sheppard, Rachel Tax, and Kristi Schmeck are vying for the seat.

In Clallam-Jefferson Fire District 3, the Position 1 seat on the fire commissioners board also has a primary race with three candidates: Jeff Nicholas, Sean Ryan, and Duane Chamlee.

Voters in Quilcene will cast ballots on Proposition 1, a property tax measure for EMS (emergency medical services) funding.

Port Townsend

The race for Position 5 on the Port Townsend City Council lacks an incumbent candidate, as current Councilmember Pamela Adams declined to seek another term.

Major issues this election cycle are expected to include the scope, and funding of, city services as costs continue to escalate, as well as affordable housing, and the eventual fate of the city golf course. 

Tyler Myles Vega, 43, works as an IT professional and has previously sought public office.

He twice ran unsuccessfully for Washington’s Sixth Congressional District, the first time in 2016 as a Green Party candidate, and again in 2018, as a member of the Progressive Party, and did not advance from the primary elections.

In his candidate statement, he said: “My politics are rooted in direct action, originally as a forest defender and peace activist … My values are unapologetically progressive, and I engage all perspectives promoting the general welfare.”

Vega has an associate’s degree from Shoreline Community College.

In his candidate statement in the voters guide, he promoted the pursuit of a local Green New Deal and has suggested redeveloping part of the city golf course into a public commons: “We are witnessing multiple generations waking up from a culture of apathy to realize we can solve any problem given solidarity and political will. Locally, those same generations are getting gentrified out of town.

For us, that means big measures on sustainable workforce housing followed by a fundamental cultural change at all levels and with all decisions.”

Re-imaging the golf course, he continued, could include consideration of “ecotourism, workforce housing, food sovereignty, permaculture, clean energy, energy independence, zero waste, as well as keeping some golf in the picture.”

Libby Urner Wennstrom, 58, is currently the vice-chair of JeffCo Democrats, and has been a precinct committee officer since 2018. She is a self-employed technical writer, and is a former director of JeffCo Farmers Markets. She has also been the director of the Low Tide Festival for the Marine Science Center and has been a board chair for Salish Rescue.

She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Reed College.

In her candidate’s statement, Wennstrom wrote: “For 23 years, I’ve seen Port Townsend’s willingness to pitch in and make things happen. I’ve often been a part of these efforts, from organizing free masks for schools to managing our volunteer Search and Rescue. I’ve served on a wide variety of teams, and I’m good at helping people find common ground.”

“As a former single mom juggling part-time jobs, I know how hard it can be to make a living here. I’ve seen too many families move away, and too many cooks or nurses working doubles because new staff can’t find homes. It’s time to actually get affordable workforce housing built,” she added.

Sky Hardesty-Thompson, 39, is running the lowest-key campaign of the Position 5 race. 

Hardesty-Thompson did not provide information about his campaign for inclusion in the primary voters guide, and did not respond to a request for information last week from The Leader.

Jefferson County Fire Protection District No. 3

Three candidates will be on the ballot for the Position 3 seat.

This year, the big issues in the race are expected to revolve around the future of Port Ludlow Fire & Rescue and a possible consolidation with East Jefferson Fire Rescue, and the tenuous relationship between union firefighters and management of the department.

Glenn T. Clemens, 65, is a Port Ludlow resident who retired after 40 years as a licensed captain in the maritime industry. A former volunteer firefighter in Orgeon, he has called Jefferson County home for more than 30 years.

“I consider myself to be team-oriented,” Clemens noted in his voters guide candidate statement. “I would like to represent the taxpayers of Port Ludlow on the fire commission.”

Mike Feely, 67, spent his early years in Shine and moved back there in 2004. 

Feely started working at the Pope and Talbot sawmill in Port Gamble in the early 1970s, and joined North Kitsap Fire & Rescue as a volunteer firefighter in 1979. He left the mill in 1986 to take on a paid position with North Kitsap Fire & Rescue in 1986. 

At North Kitsap, he climbed the ranks to shift captain and finally, battalion chief and fire marshal. Feely also served as the volunteer fire chief for Hansville for two years. 

Ron Helmonds, 68, has been on the board of fire commissioners since his appointment to a vacant seat in 2008. He was elected to two six-year terms as fire commissioner, the first time in 2010.

He previously owned and operated a chain of furniture stores in the San Francisco Bay area and moved to Port Ludlow in 2003. He has also been a Realtor for Coldwell Banker, and was owner of Performance Property Management in Port Ludlow before selling the business and retiring.

His education includes West Valley College in Saratoga, California, and then San Diego State University, where he was a business major.

“I believe in fiscal responsibility and accountability for the district and it’s employees,” Helmonds said in his campaign statement. “Key management and leadership are essential to lead our fire district forward through the next decade and beyond.”

Quilcene Prop. 1

Quilcene Fire Rescue is hoping to renew its EMS property tax levy during the Primary Election.

Revenues will be used to pay for EMS vehicles emergency medical technicians and paramedics, as well as needed medical supplies and gear. The levy needs a simple 50 percent majority vote to pass.

Quilcene Fire Rescue has an existing EMS levy that was passed by voters in 2016 but will expire in 2022.

The levy rate would be set at 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value if Prop. 1 is approved by voters.

Property taxes collected from the levy starting in 2023 and would continue through 2028. 

The EMS levy is expected to cost the owner of a property assessed at $300,000 a total of $150 a year, or $12.50 per month.

Fire District 3

Voters will narrow the field in the Commissioner Position 1 race for the Clallam-Jefferson Fire District 3 in August, sending two candidates to the General Election in November.

Incumbent Commissioner G. Michael Gawley decided to not seek another term.

Jeff Nicholas is taking his first shot at elected office.

Nicholas, 65, is a former Navy captain and a Sequim resident.

A submarine officer while in the Navy, he was also a political military affairs officer on the staff of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during the Balkans crisis in the 1990s.

A retired business executive, he has been a volunteer firefighter/EMT for the fire department.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in business at Marquette University and has completed graduate training at the National Defense University and Joint Forces Staff College.

Nicholas said in his candidate’s statement: “I want to be a commissioner who works for you. When the time comes when you have an emergency, I will ensure firefighters, EMTs and paramedics are available, trained, properly equipped and prepared for your unique circumstances.”

Sean Ryan, 59, has served as a volunteer firefighter and a Sequim businessman. He owns ServiceMaster Restore and is the former owner of America’s Elite Inc., a Sequim-based disaster restoration business.

Duane V. Chamlee, 77, is a 2½-year resident of Sequim and a retired career firefighter.

He spent 38 years with the Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department, finishing his time there as deputy chief.

“I feel I have the necessary aptitude and abilities to serve as a CCFD#3 Commissioner, having served as a firefighter and management including as a contract city fire chief,” Chamlee wrote in his candidate’s statement. 

“I am currently, and have been since its inception, a member of the IAFF Local 2881 and have attended meetings as both labor and management. I feel it is the responsibility of the commission to provide the best/safe working environment for all members of the district, boots on the ground and staff, as well as providing the best service available to the citizens of the district consistent with fiscal integrity,” he added.

Sequim School District,
Director At Large, Position 4

Only two of four candidates in the race fro Sequim School Board’s at-large Position 4 will advance to November.

The incumbent in the Position 4 seat, Brandino Gibson, is not running to retain the seat.

Derek Huntington is a 2004 graduate of Sequim High School.

Huntington, 35, has not served in public office before. His daughter, a fourth-grader, is a special needs student in the district.

“Students and staff deserve a healthy work, and learning environment,” Huntington said in his candidate’s statement. “The school board needs a reset and if elected I would work to build public trust, support, and greater participation.”

Virginia R. Sheppard, 79, attended Port Angeles High School and Santa Monica City College and is the owner of Generations Boutique.

She has volunteered for schools in other Washington cities where she has lived, and served as a treasurer for school PTAs and PTOs. 

Sheppard said in her candidate’s statement: “I find the need to step up and speak for the children of today and the future. I have had to sit back and watch our schools fail to teach our children the full history of America. Now we are told that American History must give way to Critical Race Theory, a largely untested proposition that assigns blame for many of society’s ills to one race of people, as if the cure for racism was another type of racism.”

“Too many parents have developed a fear of speaking up for their children,” Sheppard continued. I will be your voice and advocate for the defense of history as history unflinchingly presented and unafraid.”

Rachel Tax, 27, is a founding member of the Tasha Therapeutic Equestrian Center and serves as the treasurer the board of directors.

Tax said the school board needs a mom on board. In her candidate statement, she wrote: “As a mom of four, I am a strong advocate of increasing family/school relations within our district. Parents and teachers need to work together to create the best learning environment for our children and transparency for families.”

She will complete a bachelor of science degree in business management from Brigham Young University-Idaho in July.

Kristi Schmeck, 55, has been an school teacher, basketball and track coach for more than 25 years and has been an athletic director for a charter school. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education 

“There has been an alarming increase in the number of our students that experience depression, anxiety and hopelessness. I have seen it first hand in the classroom and in the community that I serve. This needs to change,” Schmeck said in her candidate’s statement. 

“My role as a school board member is to work to fulfill our obligation to ensure each child experiences a healthy learning environment, with a curriculum based in truth, and one that integrates peer supported teaching,” she added.