Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

Spring and Schafer face off for Port commissioner

DAYTON-Mike Spring and Randy Schafer are running for Port of Columbia Commissioner representing District 2, the seat being vacated by Genie Crowe. "The Times" spoke with Spring and received a prepared statement from Shafer.

Candidate Mike Spring

Spring is excited about the future in Columbia County and believes with help from the community and through his gift of perseverance, much can be accomplished.

He explained, "The primary goal of a port district is economic development for its communities, creating jobs and encouraging growth throughout the port's district. I see a bustling ag-based county that builds on strong community support and builds a future that looks better than the past."

He then listed the assets in Columbia County that make it attractive for agri-business to thrive here: opportunities for recreation, a good school system, excellent medical services, affordable housing with room to grow, assets for transporting goods, and a diverse agricultural base. All of which, Springs believes, could turn Dayton into an agriculture giant. He said obstacles are an unfocused community identity, lack of a broader vision, and the failure to plan for the future.

He supports the port's project to provide broadband service to residents in the City of Dayton, and he thinks it is important to expand that service to outlying areas in the county. He said costs for doing that should be shared between the port district and private businesses.

Spring said he would like the port to do more research into whether it should sell the railway. He would like any misinformation around that issue to be cleared up before making an actual decision. Generally speaking, the railroad should be maintained and kept operational far into the future, he said.

During his forty-year professional career, he has demonstrated the ability to separate his personal preferences when making decisions to meet the needs of all in the community, and he is more than adequately prepared to help provide oversight of the port district, he said.

"I have worked with city councils, county commissions, fire district commissions, Washington State agencies, and elected officials. I have been intricately involved in city and county planning."

Spring was born and raised in Bend, Oregon. He has served as a city firefighter in Walla Walla and fire chief for La Grande, College Place, and the City of West Richland. In West Richland, he oversaw the construction of a new fire station for Benton Rural Fire District 4. He went to work for the Hanford Fire District in 2013, retiring in 2018.

Until his father-in-law's death a year and a half ago, Spring pitched in to help on the family's diversified farm in Imbler, Ore.

For the past ten years, he and his wife, Ann, have owned and operated two businesses in Dayton, Chief Spring's Brew Pub and Chief Spring's Pizzeria. He is currently a volunteer firefighter and fire commissioner for Columbia County.

He said, "I believe these experiences give me the unique ability to help set the goals, objectives, and future path for the Columbia Port District, so it benefits you, friends, neighbors, business owners, and citizens of Columbia County."

Candidate Randy Schafer

In a statement to voters, Schafer said he was born and raised in Columbia County. He was in Dayton High School's graduation class of 1983 and earned a Bachelor of Sciense degree in Agronomy and Soils Science from WSU in 1987.

"Having worked as a field agronomist, crop consultant, farm manager, and business owner for the past thirty years has afforded me the opportunity to apply my education and experience in all aspects of business management," he said.

Schafer said that with the port's broadband project underway, "what is done is done." He expressed concerns that developing technology could price out fiber with sub-$10 monthly internet bills.

"Bezos is trying to get this off the ground in 2024," he said.

He said, "Internet for the unincorporated portion of the county will be qite expensive for the small amount of customers it would serve. Starlink would make the most sense for rural customers."

Schafer said the railroad is not functional in its current condition. "It needs a massive overhaul, it may be best to sell to the interested party. They would have skin in the game and the ability to get the job done to make the railway suitable for commerce."

Addressing Columbia County assets he said, "Agbased economy that works well with value-added products, that are a great fit with the port's incubator projects."

"As a candidate for Port Commissioner, I am interested in being an integral part of the constituency which oversees the Columbia County Port District," he wrote in his statement to voters. Economic vibrancy is essential to sustaining the quality of life for generations to come. Transparency and fiscal accountability is of utmost importance when tasked with public resources. As Port Commissioner, I will work to ensure the port remains a sustainable economic engine benefiting all in Columbia County.

Mike Spring and Randy Schafer will face off in the November 2023 General Election.


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