Incumbent, former commissioner win seats among 6 candidates in port commissioner races

A former Port of St. Helens commissioner will again serve on the Port board along with incumbent Chris Iverson.

Robert Keyser narrowly edged out challenger Melinda Bernert for Position 4 on the Port's board of commissioners, leading with 43 percent over Bernert's 41 percent.

KeyserThe May special election marked a return to the political arena for Keyser, who previously served as Port commissioner from 2004 to 2015, when he was unseated by current commissioner, Paulette Lichatowich.

Keyser ran for the seat vacated by Terry Luttrell, who approached Keyser about running again and decided not to seek re-election.

Natasha Parvey-Leskowich, the third challenger for the seat, secured 16 percent of the vote.

Keyser, who owns Clatskanie Builders Supply and opened an RV park in Clatskanie, has been a staunch supporter of industrial growth led by the Port during his tenure as a commissioner. He spoke at a Port Commission meeting in March to register support for the rezone of farmland in Clatskanie, part of an ongoing effort to expand the Port Westward Industrial Park.

He and Iverson, the only incumbent in the Port race, were endorsed by the agency's former executive director, Patrick Trapp, immediately after Trapp's departure in April. Keyser also received a $950 campaign donation from Sen. Betsy Johnson — the only candidate to receive Johnson's financial backing in the Port race.

IversonFor Position 5, Iverson led with 53 percent of the vote on the Port board, while Megan Kunkel-Hallstone garnered 33 percent and Brady Preheim trailed with 14 percent of votes.

Iverson, an insurance agent with Hagan Hamilton Insurance Services, said running for re-election gave him the chance to reconnect with the public.

"There are a lot of things you take away from a campaign," Iverson said Thursday. "I talked to a lot of people about what they'd like to see from the Port."

Iverson said he wanted to "keep moving the Port forward" and would like to see projects like the expansion of Port Westward and a methanol plant at Port Westward come to fruition.

After winning his seat on the board again, Iverson said his top priority is recruiting a new executive director for the Port.

"We need to get that done," he said by phone Thursday.

Both Iverson and Keyser have addressed citizen pleas to increase transparency and access to public documents available on the Port's website.

"It's obviously something we need to address," Keyser said last month, prior to the election. Iverson also agreed the agency could improve the availability of public information.

Keyser was unavailable when reached for comment Thursday.

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