June 23, 2018 — The Port of Siuslaw Commission chose two new commissioners Wednesday night, filling two vacancies that opened earlier this year.
Craig Zolezzi, who owns two branches of Zolezzi Insurance Agency in Drain and Sutherland, Ore., and Craig Brandt, a retiree who has done a considerable amount of volunteer work with the Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program (STEP), were chosen.
The openings were created when commissioners David Huntington and Nancy Rickard stepped down from their positions. Huntington was hired as the port’s manager, while Rickard vacated her position to focus on her new role as a board member on the Siuslaw School Board District Advisory Committee.
“It’s a tough position for us to be in,” Commissioner Terry Duman said as he opened the nomination process to a packed house of potential hopefuls and curious audience members.
Ten people in total submitted applications for the positions and were then whittled down to five who received public interviews.
“We have to make a tough cut,” Duman said. “The 10 applicants were more than what we thought we would ever get, and then we had to pare it down to five. It’s just a tough cut, as we have friends and neighbors (among the applicants). It’s going to cause some hurt feelings.”
He later added, “I wish we could have a board of eight.”
Because the board is officially made up of five members, all three current commissioners, Duman, Bill Meyer and Mike Buckwald, had to agree unanimously for the first position.
Buckwald nominated Brandt, who was quickly seconded by Meyer.
“’I’ve been around Craig for a lot of years and appreciate the volunteer efforts that he makes,” Meyer said. “I also know him to be a person with considerable social skills, though he won’t admit to that. That comes in real handy when you’re sitting on a board with contentious issues. So, I’m glad he applied.”
Buckwald added, “Craig, I don’t know you at all, but I appreciate the time that you’ve spent in the STEP program. I liked some of the things you said and how you said them.”
“I appreciate the nomination,” Brandt said. “I live here and I love the port. We have to get together and get this going in the right direction. It’s really come around in the last year and a half, and I think it’s going in the right direction.”
Ultimately, Duman voted in favor as well, and Brandt was installed in his position.
At that point, Duman asked Brandt if he would feel qualified to vote on the next commissioner position, as he had been officially sworn in. Brandt, who had sat in on the public interviews, said he would.
Meyer then nominated Jay Cable, who owns and operates the Bridgeport Market located next to the port. Cable also had experience with the port, sitting on the commission years earlier.
“Just like Craig, I’ve known Jay for a lot of years,” Meyer said. “I’ve dealt with him financially, and watched his business operation and his people skills and dealing with the public. I appreciated his vision, and I think we need to not just maintain the status quo, but we need to move this port forward.”
At that point, Brandt seconded the nomination and he and Meyer voted “yea.” Buckwald voted “nay,” and after contemplation, Duman also voted “nea” and Cable’s nomination failed.
Duman then nominated Zolezzi, who Buckwald seconded.
“I’ve been in the community for years part time,” Zolezzi said. “In the last few years, I became a full time resident here. I’m a fisherman and involved in the community and to see the port thrive is exciting to me. I heard there were positions opening up, and I thought I would submit an application and get involved.”
Brandt voted “yea,” but Meyer voted against Zolezzi. However, Zolezzi received the majority vote and was sworn in.
“I would just like to say I’m honored to be a commissioner, and I look forward to work with everyone, and the future here,” Zolezzi said.
Brandt said his work with STEP was the reason he came to the Port of Siuslaw.
“I do a lot of volunteerism for them,” he said. “I’m down [at the port] all the time for STEP, so I thought I would get involved a little bit more.
Brandt referenced remarks made by a woman during public comments at the beginning of the meeting, who spoke about how much progress she’s seen with the port in the past year. A long time seasonal occupant of the ports campground, she stated that the port is better organized and cleaner, and that the staff and commissioners were making the port better.
“They are making it better right now,” Brandt said. “And I would like to help them make it better. It has come up a long way, and it’s doing really good.”