Port commissioners Jim Hallett and John Calhoun selected McHugh from 12 applicants, whittled down to four finalists, at the Jan. 9 board meeting after interviewing them in open session and discussing qualifications in executive session.
The “semi-retired” real estate broker said the Rayonier site, recently closed PenPly mill site and the Wild Olympics proposal are three of the most important issues for him and he intends to work hard to get himself up to speed.
“I need to fully understand the port’s operations, policies, and its financial side so that I can be an effective representative of not just my port district but of the entire county,” he said.
“I will be meeting with business and governmental leader in my district to better broaden my knowledge of the opportunities that exist to develop economic opportunities and jobs.”
He and finalists Sterling Epps, a retired law enforcement officer and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office volunteer cold-case investigator; Shawn Hankins, a Port Angeles native, chiropractor and land developer; and Gerald Stiles, a retired aeronautical engineer with the military, each interviewed with the two port commissioners in open session.
During the public comment section, Brown Maloney, local businessman and former owner of the Sequim Gazette, spoke in support of McHugh.
McHugh, who spent eight years on the Sequim City Council, is “a proven, vetted official” who is well-connected and committed to the community, Maloney said.
Two Stiles supporters, Larry Reece and Dick Piling, spoke before the board.
“He’s got more degrees than a thermometer,” Piling said.
Former port commissioner George Schoenfeldt spoke in support of Hankins.
Hankins often called Schoenfeldt to ask about port business, showing an interest and concern in the governmental agency, Schoenfeldt said.
“I do know he’s someone both you commissioners could work with well,” he said.
Epps, born and raised in Los Angeles, highlighted his network of friends and associates in Washington D.C., as well as his vision for Port Angeles to be a destination point, not a transit point.
Hankins touted his background as an entrepreneur with a successful chiropractic office, land development ventures and owning and operating several water systems.
He said the port should continue to maximize the marine terminals and utilize infrastructure to encourage real estate development.
Calhoun raised concerns about a commissioner from Port Angeles representing constituents in the east end of the county.
Stiles said his motivation to apply for the vacancy was to help use the port as an economic engine to develop jobs.
After a 24-year career in the military, acting as a federal major program director in Washington, D.C., and later as a government consultant, he said he knows Washington, D.C., inside and out.
During his introduction, McHugh told the commissioners he is comfortable with politics and the necessary discussions with government entities and the public.
McHugh said he remains active in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Sequim Sunrise Rotary and other local groups.
“I want to know how they (the public) think the port is doing and what the port could do better,” he said. “I think I can hit the ground running.”
McHugh said he and the port need to focus on developing infrastructure to help bring family or living wage opportunities to the entire county.
“Neither my or the port’s focus is directly on retail/professional/tourism types of jobs, thought these come indirectly and in abundance when living wage jobs are developed,” he said.
At a higher level, McHugh would like to help decision makers at the state and federal level understand how critical and potentially damaging their decisions can be to the well-being of their constituents living in rural areas, he said in an e-mail.
“We all want the environment to be protected but we also should be able to expect that we can have the chance to earn a living wage and good quality of life (schools/general opportunities) in areas of the state aside from the I-5 corridor,” he said.
McHugh said he would intend to seek a full term to the commission when he completes McEntire’s term in 2013.