Scott Walker asks for Charlie Sheldon’s resignation

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Bellingham Port Commissioner Scott Walker motioned for the port to ask Executive Director Charlie Sheldon to resign. His motion came at the end of the regularly scheduled commission meeting on Tuesday afternoon. The motion failed with commissioners Jim Jorgensen and Mike McAuley voting against asking for the resignation.

Charlie was hired almost exactly a year ago after two extensive searches by port commissioners. He was championed for hiring by Scott Walker and the other two commissioners joined in voting to hire him. Charlie has been well received by all who work with him in the community and, until Tuesday, it was generally accepted that his work was well liked by the commissioners. Indeed, it was Scott objecting last year to the executive choice by Mike and Jim of another candidate which led to the port starting their search a second time and hiring Charlie. All three commissioners voted for him.

Scott was vague on the reasons he wanted Charlie gone. He said Charlie was not moving the port in the correct direction, he didn't like the way Charlie was handling Port staffing decisions. Scott also talked about how the Port staff is organized but was not specific, although it is generally known that Scott would like several port employees terminated. During the past year, Scott has often mentioned how much he liked former port executive director Jim Darling.

Several port watchers feel Scott is clinging to the waterfront development plan that predates the financial crisis of 2008. That plan has a heavy emphasis on expensive waterfront condominiums. Charlie has been openly encouraging the plan be evaluated in light of current economic conditions. Most local political observers know the older waterfront plan was a collaborative work by Jim Darling and Scott Walker.

Last week, Charlie was criticized by Bellingham mayor Dan Pike in a campaign speech regarding the waterfront. Dan Pike and Scott Walker are seen as close partners on the waterfront plan for condominiums and a new pleasure boat marina.

Port commissioner and president of the commission Mike McAuley had his own take on the issue. He suggested Charlie is perhaps just not doing things the way Scott Walker wants them done. Mike quoted Charlie as saying, "I work for all three of you commissioners." Scott is now completing his 20th year as port commissioner, having been elected in 1991. Jim Jorgensen was elected eight years ago in 2003 and is now running for his third term. Scott has for many years been the dominant member of the commission, with Doug Smith and Jim Jorgensen routinely voting with him on port issues.

In 2009 Mike McAuley was elected to a four year commissioner term. With Mike's election, things began to shift. Mike went against Scott over rent charges for commercial fishing boats last year. It resulted in Jim joining Mike to give a break to commercial fishing boats. This was a reversal of a 21 year trend, led by Scott, of generally higher costs for fishers.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Michael McAuley

Oct 19, 2011

Hey John…thanks for keeping up on port issues.  As you know, while we may not always agree, I think that robust debate will ensure at least a palatable outcome. 

While I’m not debating on this particular issue, I would clarify a point - Mr. Pike was critical of the Port’s handling of the waterfront planning process and, specifically, of Mr. Stoner’s work relating to that project.

So, that issue aside, I would like to hear from all on this forum in regards to this latest.

M

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g.h.kirsch

Oct 19, 2011

” Dan Pike and Scott Walker are seen as close partners on the waterfront plan for condominiums and a new pleasure boat marina. “

Only by you, I expect, John. 

In your haste to place all problems of western civilization at Pike’s feet, you’ve overlooked the greater coverage of his criticism, which was hardly directed at Charlie Sheldon, who the mayor considers quite favorably.

Sheldon’s defense of his new found staff was entirely expectable and hardly cause for any conflict between Dan and Charlie.

Don’t let elections fog your objectivity.

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Paul deArmond

Oct 19, 2011

This situation looks like yet another strong argument for why we should have five port commissioners.

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John Watts

Oct 19, 2011

Curious development.
It seems Mr Walker wants to remain the Prince-in-Waiting.
Sheldon seems a good, level-headed and experienced Director, notwithstanding he is relatively new to our local scene.
Often, fresh eyes and ideas act as a tonic to large undertakings, so these ought to be welcome.
Two things that might benefit any new look at how the waterfront redevelopment might be jump-started and more independently pursued remain the same now as they did years ago when the first agreement to agree was conceived and signed jointly by the Port and City;
? Maintain public ownership of the entire waterfront properties.
? Establish an independent Public Development Authority to focus on getting the work done according to agreed-to guidelines -which have been discussed at length over the years and mostly accepted by the public at large.

Making such changes at this point may be difficult, but perhaps its time to try this approach again.
No panacea is expected, but a laser-like focus that is relatively goal oriented and with less interference from selfish self interests might well be more effective, especially in utilizing the LIFT funds that Kelli Linville was instrumental in providing some years ago [and which have been unused since].
After all, both the City and WWU have already agreed to the idea of a PDA, with the Port the sole holdout on this concept.
This approach has also worked pretty well for the City’s Cultural District.
Maybe the way is becoming more clear that Scott Walker’s time is up?

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Hue Beattie

Oct 19, 2011

Mr Jorgesen who is up for another term was asked at the progressive forum last nite—When will the port go to 5 commisioners and will you introduce the resolution to change it? He declined saying he was fine with 3.
A later question asked how many 2 to 1 votes he had in his 8years? He said not many , we are usally in agreement.
Reminds me of King Tut and Prince Peter and the old Mac.
He did not get endorsed.
Mercury was documented in the sediments in the mid 1970s. Cleanup was always a few years out.

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