City, fire, and school candidates react | 2021 General Election to election results

James Sloan, Brian Kelly, and Laura Jean Schneider
Posted 11/10/21



The Port Townsend City Council will add three faces in January. Based on results following last week’s General Election, the newcomers include Ben Thomas in Position 1, …

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City, fire, and school candidates react | 2021 General Election to election results




The Port Townsend City Council will add three faces in January. Based on results following last week’s General Election, the newcomers include Ben Thomas in Position 1, while Libby Urner Wennstrom will join the council as well in Position 5.

A new fire commissioner was elected in Port Ludlow as well, with new commissioner-elect Glenn T. Clemens joining the board for Fire Protection District No. 3.

For the Sequim School District, Kristi Schmeck has won her election in a director-at-large position for the school board.

Additionally, Paul Mahan was re-elected to the Position 5 seat on the Quilcene School Board.


In the two opposed races for Port Townsend council seats, both Wennstrom and Thomas won by landslide proportions.

“I was fairly confident that I would win,” Wennstrom said. “I had the practical approach.”

“Part of it was that a lot of people had a lot of confidence that I could do the job well,” she said. “I’m familiar with the issues of the city already.”

Wennstrom said that she will continue to listen to the people of Port Townsend, and will focus on matters she campaigned on, such as affordable housing.

According to unofficial precinct returns, Wennstrom carried each of Port Townsend’s 11 precincts by a comfortable margin.

Her percentage of the vote was greatest in the precinct of Port Townsend 710, where Wennstrom won 76.2 percent of the vote. Her next best showing was in the precinct of Port Townsend 702, where she earned 75.8 percent.

Her support was softest — but still a strong majority, nonetheless —  in Port Townsend 704, where she finished with 59.6 percent of all ballots cast.

Wennstrom finished north of 70 percent in six of Port Townsend’s 11 precincts.

Tyler Vega, Wennstrom’s opponent, wasn’t surprised by his loss.

He also trailed Wennstrom during this year’s Primary Election.

“It’s expected; this is how I thought it would go,” Vega said. “As a progressive, one learns early not to get attached to results”.

In order to win or have a better shot at city council, “I would’ve had to have not compromised on family or the work front, and eliminate all the things I’m doing,” Vega said. “Being over-extended hurts in a lot of ways … I learned my lesson in a big way this round.”

In the short term, Vega wants to spend more time with his family, although he has an eye on civic service in the future.

“I’m considering the planning commission,” he said. “I’m now known as the guy who you can talk about politics with at the dog park or wherever.”

Only two of three council seats up for grabs this year had two contenders. Aislinn Diamanti ran unopposed for Position 2.

“I am surprised by the margin. I honestly didn’t think too much about the results, which I know sounds bizarre,” Thomas said.

“I’m just not competitive in that way. I just wanted to win by one vote,” he explained.

Thomas said his name recognition probably helped him in his run for the Port Townsend City Council.

“My guess is that those that read anything about me would perhaps have appreciated that I grew up in Port Townsend, have a working-class background, and spoke about helping Port Townsend be a good place for children and small businesses,” Thomas said.

Thomas said his election comes with responsibility.

“As a new councilor, I’m going to focus on outreach. I think that’s a good thing for new councilors to focus on,” he said.

“Even though I got a lot of votes, I don’t see that as a mandate for doing whatever I darn well please. I’m here to represent the entire town as best I can, and I really want to hear from people,” he said.

Thomas handily won the most votes in all 11 Port Townsend precincts against Cameron Jones.

He fared best in the precinct of Port Townsend 702, where he got 79.4 percent of all ballots cast.

His next best showing was in Port Townsend 710, where he won 78.7 percent of the vote, according to unofficial precinct returns from Nov. 4.

“Honestly I can’t say that I’m all that surprised,” Jones said of the loss. “I have a good relationship with Ben [Thomas], I’m not surprised. But I think Ben will do a great job.”

Jones, 35, said he may run again for local office in the future.

“I think potentially in the next couple years, it’s definitely an option,” Jones said.


Glenn T. Clemens will be the next fire commissioner for Position 3 for Port Ludlow Fire Protection District No. 3.

Clemens, the challenger in the race, had 59.7 percent of the vote in the last vote tally on Nov. 4.

Ron Helmonds, the incumbent, had 39.7 percent.

In the vote breakdown, Clemens had 1,251 votes to Helmonds’ 833, a gap of 418 between the two candidates.

A total of 2,095 ballots from voters in the fire district were counted through Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Clemens, 65, has long roots in Jefferson County but is a political newcomer. He’s lived in the county for more than 30 years, and retired as a captain after a career in the maritime industry.

His prior experience with the fire service includes time as a volunteer firefighter in Oregon.

The third try was not the charm for Helmonds, who has been on the fire board since his appointment in 2008. Since then, he’s been re-elected twice to the Position 3 seat on the three-member board.

A 17-year resident of Port Ludlow, Helmonds, 68, is a retired businessman who once owned a chain of furniture stores in the San Fransisco Bay area.

Clemens and Helmonds were the top two choices from voters during the three-way race in August’s Primary Election.

Clemens was the winner then, with 36.13 percent of the vote.

Helmonds, however, was close behind with 35.78 of all ballots cast.

The third candidate, Mike Feely, finished with 27 percent of the vote.

In the General Election, Clemens won six of seven precincts in the fire district’s boundary that reported vote totals.

Beyond the precinct of Center I, where Clemens won all four votes that were cast, the challenger did best in the precinct of Port Ludlow I, where he pulled in 67 percent of the vote, according to unofficial precinct returns.

Helmonds’ sole precinct win came in Port Ludlow V, where he got 50 percent of all ballots cast, compared to Clemens’ 47 percent.


A candidate who did no active campaigning has won the race for the Sequim School District’s at-large director position.

Kristi Schmeck, 55, won by a landslide, earning 65 percent of votes to her opponent Virginia Sheppard’s 33.57 percent.

Sheppard finished her campaign with questions still looming.

She noted that Schmeck had earlier dropped out of the race and had not submitted required reports to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, the state agency that serves as a watchdog on campaign financing.

“What astounds me is that, even after a primary, a candidate, who is not eligible to accept the position, remains on the ballot,” Sheppard said.

“My opponent didn’t file her financials with the PDC and was told by the PDC that she must tell the Sequim School Board that she can’t take the seat because of the violation. My opponent, however, has no intention to decline the position but instead is asking the PDC if she can. 

“Under what circumstances does that leave those who filed their finances with the PDC?  Is there any reason that future candidates should follow the law and file their financials with the PDC?” Sheppard asked.

Schmeck did not respond to requests for comment on her victory to The Leader.

Schmeck said she was withdrawing her candidacy for school board for personal reasons in early June, but led in the Primary Election without campaigning in a four-way race, picking up 28.85 percent of votes between Jefferson and Clallam counties, followed by Sheppard, Rachel Tax, and Derek Huntington.

Schmeck missed the deadline to officially withdraw from the race, but she did submit a statement of termination of her campaign to the Public Disclosure Commission on June 4.

She remained on the ballot, however, and along with Sheppard, advanced to the General Election.

Schmeck, 55, has worked as a school teacher, basketball and track coach, and ran an after-school program at Sequim Middle School from 2019 to 2020. She can still accept the position if she chooses, but will be subject to public disclosure enforcement penalties for failing to submit required reports.


Paul Mahan was re-elected to the Position 5 seat on the Quilcene School Board.

Mahan was leading challenger Ronald Leon Jones in the race in the latest vote tally from last Tuesday’s General Election.

The incumbent had 57.4 percent of all ballots cast in the race, while Jones had 42.1 percent.

The tally was 372 votes for Mahan, and 273 votes for Jones, a difference of 99 votes.

Mahan, 45, is currently the vice chair of the school board and joined the school board in 2016.

Jones, 48, is a veteran who served more than 20 years in the Navy. He currently works as a business analyst.

Mahan won two of three precincts in the race.

He won 52.8 percent of all ballots cast in the precinct of Crocker, and pulled in 64 percent in Quilcene.

Jones won the precinct of Coyle, with 54 percent (90 votes to 72 for Mahan).


Voter turnout for the 2021 General Election was less than 50 percent. Jefferson County elections officials pegged turnout for the election at 46 percent of eligible voters.

A total of 27,596 residents were registered to vote in the election, and a total of 12,876 ballots had been counted through Nov. 4.

The next vote tally was scheduled for late Tuesday, Nov. 9.

The Jefferson County Canvassing Board is scheduled to meet Nov. 22 to pre-certify the election results, with final certification planned for Nov. 23.


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