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Anacortes Port Commission candidate Bonnie Bowers visits with Chamber of Commerce members Thursday during a candidate forum at Anacortes Lutheran Church. Candidates for office spent time at each table during the  chamber luncheon/forum, meeting chamber members and answering questions. To Bowers' left is County Commissioner Ron Wesen. (Richard Walker / Anacortes American)

It was a speed-dating event of sorts, with individuals wooing others at each table in search of a long-term relationship — at least one that would last four years.

The prospective suitors: candidates for office in the Nov. 5 general election. The event: a candidate forum sponsored by the Anacortes Chamber of Commerce.

The forum, held Thursday at Anacortes Lutheran Church, started with brief opening statements by each candidate followed by time at each table where attendees and candidates could talk. Candidates for each office spent a set amount of time at one table, then moved to another.

Chamber Executive Director Stephanie Hamilton said she’s been organizing these speed-Q&A sessions for about 10 years, saying it’s a good way for attendees to get to know each candidate. Twenty-six candidates are seeking election to 19 positions next month. Attendees got to meet and question 13 of them.

Invited were candidates for state Senate, Anacortes City Council, Anacortes School Board, and Anacortes Port Commission. Two participating candidates — Bonnie Bowers, Anacortes Port Commission Position 4; and Jeremy Carter, Anacortes City Council, Position 3 — are unopposed. Some candidates did not participate.     

Each participating candidate made an opening statement that gave a glimpse into who they are and what their campaigns are about.

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Anacortes City Council candidate John Schryvers cups his ear to take in a question from a Chamber of Commerce member Thursday during a candidate forum at Anacortes Lutheran Church. To Schryvers' left are Anacortes School District Superintendent Mark Wenzel and City Councilman Ryan Walters, who is seeking reelection. (Richard Walker / Anacortes American

Daniel R. Miller, Republican, candidate for state Senate: “I’m concerned about property rights, water rights, First Amendment, Second Amendment, keeping taxes low, freedom of speech, looking at government investments. There’s a lot of tricky things going on with government investments today … Transportation is really important also (and) careful spending of your tax dollars.”

Liz Lovelett, Democrat, former Anacortes City Council member appointed to the state Senate in February: “I got there six days before (legislation deadline). I got six bills to the governor’s desk covering everything from orca recovery to purchasing practices, helping streamline foster care for our most vulnerable youth, and was very proud to participate in (working for) clean energy and health care … protecting people and making sure they have access to the health care they deserve and the services they need and putting us on a clear course toward solving our climate change issues. I love what I do.”

Tor Fleming, candidate for Anacortes City Council Position 2: “I have 30 years of experience building businesses, starting new companies and helping turn around other companies. My priorities for the city are to have us have responsible spending without burdening our taxpayers, and make sure development happens in a responsible way, that it doesn’t change our neighborhoods in ways that people I’ve been talking to on a daily basis don’t like. There’s a lot of concern about over-development possibility, but we need new housing and we need new jobs for people.”

Christine Cleland-McGrath, candidate for Anacortes City Council Position 2: Since returning to Anacortes after college, “I got really into community involvement. I joined the Anacortes Arts Festival board — I’m past board president. I’ve also been involved with Rotary and I’ve been on the Planning Commission for the last four years, and through my work on Planning Commission let me tell you there’s a real learning part … Using that information, I think we need to take what we’ve done in the (updated) Development Regulations and the Comprehensive Plan and make sure we have concurrency when it comes to the infrastructure we need.”

Jennie Beltramini, candidate for Anacortes School Board Position 4: “My passion and professional experience is in education. I’ve worked in education for 23 years. I spent 19 years as a classroom teacher, 10 of those years in Anacortes School District and I currently work as a mathematics specialist for a national non-profit that supports state departments of education, school districts, schools and individual classroom teachers. … I want to be on the Anacortes School Board so I can come back home where I live and contribute to the schools I care most about, which are the schools in this community.”

Miri Levi, candidate for Anacortes School Board Position 3: “I want to help our School District do more for our children and our families. Our current methodologies are not serving all of our students, and our teachers deserve more support. I have experience as an executive leader and am a small-business owner in our community. I’m a nurse practitioner with three master’s degrees, and I’m completing an MBA this year. … As a School Board member, I will advocate for our children in every decision that I make. In order to ensure that we use our tax dollars responsibly, I will get involved in the budget process, using my expertise as a business leader to make sure we find cost-saving measures to preserve our programs.”

Connie Pangrazi, candidate for Anacortes School Board Position 5: “I moved here at the end of 2016 after retiring from Arizona State University after a career of over 30 years in education. … I’ve got a passion for education and I believe in the power of our students. I’ve tried very hard to immerse myself in the community over the past three years, and I want the opportunity to give back and I believe that with my experience, I’ll be able to do that in a very confident manner.”

Matt Cutter, candidate for reelection to Anacortes School Board Position 5: “I’m running (for reelection) because I believe in service and trying to make a difference and give back to the community. After a career in the Navy as an officer for 20 years, my wife and I decided to call Anacortes home. We just love it here. We love the community.”

Carolyn Moulton, candidate for Anacortes City Council Position 6: “I was appointed to (Position 6) in April after Sen. Lovelett was promoted to Olympia. I’ve been on the job for six months, and I love it. I’m passionate about service. I’ve done it in one form or another all my life. … I worked for a non-profit affordable housing agency on Orcas Island, so I have a background in that. And that is the crux of what I think is the most important thing we’re facing right now in Anacortes. As a city, we’ve taken some measures, and we have some tools we’ve been using. I’m working with other council members to do more for affordable housing in our community.”

John Schryvers, candidate for Anacortes City Council Position 1: “I’ve been involved in small family businesses in one way or another most of my (20 years) in town. We are running into problems hiring people in our town; a lot of our employees can’t afford to live here. Over half of my employees I have at our restaurant downtown right now commute from out of town. I remember when we first had restaurants in town, everybody in town lived in town and worked in town, and I’d like to restore that.”

Ryan Walters, candidate for reelection to Anacortes City Council Position 1: “When I ran for City Council eight years ago, I did so because I was disturbed by the amount of land-use conflict we had … I think we have a lot to be proud of now in what the city has accomplished in the last five years of public process and public meetings that have led to entirely new Comprehensive Plan, an entirely new set of Development Regulations that are going to lay the groundwork for a better mix of housing heights and styles to address the housing affordability and accessibility problem, that are going to lead to less conflict between neighborhoods and development, that are going to lead to an easier path for the kind of development that we want to see in Anacortes.”

Jeremy Carter, candidate for Anacortes City Council Position 3: “One of the reasons I’m running is I love service. I want to help out anyway I can. I’m not much of a talker. I’m more of a listener and a doer, so I love getting out and talking to people and finding out what they need and then helping implement those in any way I can.”

Bonnie Bowers, candidate for Anacortes Port Commission Position 4: “I served as police chief for 13 years, and as a public agency we rode the tide of good economic times and bad economic times. The port has the unique, almost radical, opportunity to diversify our economy, to provide assistance that small businesses need, to stabilize our economy to the extent that we don’t have dramatic swings. I think that’s very cool.”

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