Candidates for the primaries advertise experience, shed light on topics in the forum



SEQUIM – Voters met candidates for the primary – some of them anyway – for three positions in the Sequim area.

Two out of three candidates running for the Sequim School Board, Fire Department 3 Officer and Olympic Medical Center Officer introduced themselves to the online audience and answered questions sent to moderators at a forum on July 1, hosted by the Clallam County League of Women Voters and the North Olympic Library System.

The two front runners in the August 3rd primaries will move on to the November 2nd parliamentary elections.

Forum host Linda Benson said the league hopes to host personal election forums later this year.

“Our hope is that when you receive your ballot, all of your questions will be answered,” Benson told forum attendees Thursday.

The league and library system will sponsor a forum on the Port Angeles races from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Thursday. It will be available on Zoom at and broadcast live on

Candidates for positions 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Port Angeles City Council and position 2 of the Port Angeles School District will be interviewed.

Questions to the candidates can be sent in advance [email protected]; the deadline for questions is Wednesday 5 p.m.

Each forum will be recorded and made available for viewing shortly after the event on the League’s website at

Sequim schools

Derek Huntington and Rachel Tax, candidates for Director General (Position 4) of the Sequim School Board, asked questions about the district. Candidate Virginia Sheppard declined to participate, League officials announced, while a fourth candidate, Kristi Schmeck, withdrew her candidacy earlier this year.

Tax, a mother of four, said she worked online to get a business degree and worked part-time at Sequim Quality Inn & Suites. She has lived in Sequim for about four years and hopes to use outreach to address key issues in the school district.

“We’re a community-wide school district, which means everyone hears their voice,” she said.

Huntington, a Sequim resident for 25 years and a graduate of Sequim Schools, said his experience in the city along with advocating for his special needs daughter gave him a different perspective than other candidates.

He said choosing a good superintendent was one of the county’s major problems.

“The district’s image and trust have been damaged (also) and we need to fix that,” said Huntington.

None of the candidates has previous experience in public office.

Candidates were asked for their views on Critical Race Theory, an approach to research into race, culture and law that has met with significant criticism in some quarters.

“My understanding is that it teaches students the good, the bad, and the ugly of our history,” Tax said on Thursday. “Racism is real. We experience it every day, (though) maybe not that often in Sequim. ”

Huntington said he had not looked into the matter in depth, but that a board member’s role was to help the district “provide our children with adequate education.”

Tax, Huntington and Sheppard attempt to fill a seat to be vacated by Brandino Gibson, who refused to run for another term.

Patrice Johnston is running for the other seat on the school board without voting against; Like Gibson, incumbent Brian Kuh declined to run for another term this fall.

Fire department

Duane Chamlee and Jeff Nicholas offered their thoughts and backgrounds as they battled for votes in the race for Fire District 3, position 1; a third candidate, Sean Ryan, did not participate.

Nicholas served as a naval submarine officer for 30 years and retired as a captain in 2008. After retiring as Business Development Executive from FLIR Systems – a manufacturer of advanced electro-optical camera systems – in 2017, he and his wife moved to Sequim in 2016.

He said his military and business experience would serve him well on the fire district’s three-person board.

“I have served in a number of disaster operations (operations) or planned as a director for a number of disasters,” he said Thursday.

Chamlee spent 43 years in the fire service, including five years as a volunteer firefighter, and 38 years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. He retired as assistant chief of the Cal Fire / Riverside County Fire Department.

He said he saw his community grow from 40,000 people in 1978 to about 142,000 in 2000 – with the corresponding growth in fire calls for services and personnel.

He said his professional experience helps him have the perspective of firefighters and management alike.

The candidates agreed on most of the questions; The only deviation, in their opinion, related to a SAFER grant in 2017, which fire department district officers and employees applied for, but which was rejected as the district would be forced to downsize when the grant funding expired.

“It was a difficult decision for the commissioners,” said Chamlee, because it was a “budget-oriented item”.

“The future budget just wasn’t available. I have the feeling that they were responsible for tax purposes (in making this decision). ”

Nichols said, “I disagree that it was a good decision then. It reflects the fact that there is no (strategic) plan. I think a lot of people were stunned. ”

Nichols mentioned several times during the forum that the district needs a strategic plan, “one with milestones, reporting requirements, measurements, and it needs to be a living document”.

Chamlee, Nicholas and Ryan seek to fill the seat vacated by Mike Gawley, who served on the Fire Department’s three-person board for the past seven years.

Hospital officer

The third forum of the evening, Hospital District 2, was attended by Commissioner Candidates Heather Jeffers and Steven C. Blackham; a third candidate, former Port Angeles Mayor Karen Rogers, was unable to attend due to a family emergency, forum moderators said.

Jeffers, an 18 year old Sequim resident, has worked in skilled care facilities for the past nine years. As a former director of the Sequim School Board, she said she stood up alongside her professional experience as a patient advocate for family members.

Her main goal during her first year on the hospital board was to forge effective working relationships with other commissioners to see what she could add.

Blackham’s career has been spent primarily as a licensed technologist in medical laboratories, from Vermont and California to Bellingham and eventually to the Olympic Medical Center.

“The most important thing we need to achieve is to maintain the financial viability of our hospital, which could be a target for takeover by another hospital,” he said.

Jeffers said she would like to see the North Olympic Peninsula provide more services so residents don’t have to leave the area for treatment.

She also said that OMC is suffering from a significant staff shortage.

“It’s brutal out there in this church; it’s a shallow workforce, “said Jeffers, who noted that she worked hard during the COVID pandemic to reduce turnover in her position as administrator at Avamere Olympic Rehabilitation of Sequim. “What really needs to happen is that we need to have data in order to know what is causing the revenue.”

Blackham said the key to retaining employees is the treatment they receive from management.

“Happy workers are those who feel respected for their work,” he said.

Blackham, Jeffers and Rogers want to occupy the seat of longtime board member Jim Leskinovich, who has declined re-election.

Leskinovich said in a previous interview that he would support Rogers.


Michael Dashiell is the editor of Sequim Gazette for the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also consists of the other sound publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him below [email protected].



Leave A Reply