Farm dominates Port campaign

Bruce Bryson and Ron VanDyk are running for outgoing Port of Coupeville commissioner Mike Canfield’s position in the November election.

What had been a sleepy post in a small town has become a hot seat in recent months, with the three-person commission enduring intense public scrutiny regarding the management of Greenbank Farm.

The Port oversees the Coupeville Wharf and the Greenbank Farm, which is poised to receive $1.5 million from the state for capital projects at the farm. The money is designated by the state to be used for economic development, and that’s a new ball game for the Port. Its primary role has been as landlord for the businesses on the Coupeville Wharf.

VanDyk, who has 18 years prior experience on the Port board, said he would like to contribute to the partnership between the Port and Greenbank Farm Management Group.

“I think we need more teamwork between the Port and the farm group,” he said. “I want to put my two bits in and see if there is any way I can help.”

VanDyk feels Greenbank Farm should be managed by the farm group and that they should oversee the $1.5 million in state capital projects funding the farm is set to receive.

“Personally, I feel the money should go to the farm. I feel they earned it on their own initiative and should have control,” he said. “I’ve met with Laura (Blankenship, the farm’s executive director). She’s doing a wonderful job.”

He said that given time the farm could grow into a tremendous facility, and an asset as a tourist center.

With the farm’s agricultural roots, he would like to see agriculture be included in any future plans.

VanDyk has seen the Port go through some changes during his tenure on the board, including restoring the then dilapidated Coupeville Wharf.

“Some people thought I should have been impeached for supporting that, but it has turned out well,” he said. The wharf is now the main money-maker for the Port from tenant leases.

Bryson is making his first bid for a Port Commissioner position, and feels it is his duty to the community to give something back.

“This area is such a great place,” he said.

He also feels he can offer something to the Port because of his extensive knowledge of the community.

He is enthusiastic about the possibilities for the Port’s involvement with Greenbank Farm.

“I’m totally supportive of the Greenbank Farm Management Group,” he said. “I think Laura has done a tremendous amount of good there.”

Bryson acknowledges there are some complicated legal issues related to the unique relationship between the Port and the farm management group, but he thinks those can be worked out.

“I believe the Port commissioners are trying to work out the contract in the interest of the constituents of the Port District as a whole,” he said. “It’s new territory for the Port, but I believe it will be worked out with compromises that work for all parties.”

Bryson feels the Port should engage in economic development activities, as long as they are within the Port’s budget and legal ability.

“The Port should do what it can to enhance economic development,” he said.

Bruce Bryson

Age: 56

Family: Wife Mary, four grown children.

Employment: Retired Coupeville Post Master, Windermere Center Isle real estate agent.

Education: ATA, Skagit Valley College, coursework University of Alaska.

Experience: First time running for elected office.

Ron VanDyk

Age: 68

Family: Single

Employment: Retired civil service at NAS Whidbey.

Education: Oak Harbor High School graduate, class of ‘55.

Experience: 18 years in three previous terms as Port of Coupeville commissioner, 1968-1987, Ebey’s Trust board, Coupeville design review board, Island County Historical Advisory Committee.

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