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Six vie for lands commissioner

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Karen Porterfield

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Dave Upthegrove

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Mary Verner

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Hilary Franz

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Steven Nielson

— With the incumbent stepping down, six candidates are in the mix for the state’s Commissioner of Public Lands post.

Karen Porterfield of Seattle, a Democrat, is among those seeking to replace Peter Goldmark.

A faculty member in the Masters of Public Administration Program at Seattle University, Porterfield said she wants the state agency to be more effective.

“When I look at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources it’s clear that the current land commissioner doesn’t aspire to leave our public lands in a better place than when he came into office,” Porterfield said.

King County Councilman Dave Upthegrove, a Democrat, is seeking the public lands office “… to be an environmental champion. I will oppose leasing of aquatic lands for coal export terminals. We need to respect tribal treaty rights and create jobs by investing in environmental clean-up and renewable energy.”

Democrat Mary Verner currently heads the Department of Natural Resources wildfire fighting efforts. The Commissioner of Public Lands oversees the agency.

The former Spokane mayor said she has faced and overcome “… huge challenges to restore forests, fish and waters. I’m well prepared to take charge of the broad mission of Washington’s Department of Natural Resources.”

Hilary Franz, also a Democrat, works with Futurewise, a non-profit focusing on sustainable land use and transportation policies. She has served on the Bainbridge Island City Council and is seeking the lands commissioner post

If elected to the lands commissioner post, Franz said she will focus on working with “…communities across Washington to build and grow in ways that safeguard our environment, our values, and our local economies.”

Libertarian Steven Nielson is an aerospace engineer for Lockheed, Martin and Hexcel.

A Republican until 2013, Nielson is seeking Goldmark’s seat to be a “change agent” in how the Department of Natural Resources operates.

Nielson, whose family owns a Christmas tree farm, said there needs to be a focus on forest and water health, as well as “… putting folks back to work.”

He favors a “triage” system of emergency timber removal in areas with excessive fuels for potential wildfires, such as those that have plagued Eastern Washington in recent years.

“If we do nothing, which is the current policy, we end up in a situation where we have a public health and safety crisis,” he said. “We’ve lost firefighters and portions of towns, and it needs to stop.”

Republican Steve McLaughlin is also seeking the post, but did not provide comment as of press time.

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