Freshman congressman addresses economic concerns at Forks chamber
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Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daiy News
Richard Coulson of Port Angeles talks to Congressman Derek Kilmer about the use of all-terrain vehicles in national forests during a Wednesday visit to Forks, where Kilmer was a speaker to the Forks Chamber of Commerce.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — When Derek Kilmer, the 6th Congressional District's new representative, was graduating from Port Angeles High School in 1992, “the timber industry was taking it on the chin,” he told about 60 people at the Forks Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.

His neighbors lost their jobs, and the experience prompted him to study economic development, said Kilmer, a Democrat who went on to earn degrees at Princeton University and the University of Oxford.

“We want to keep and grow the employers that we have,” he said.

Now, his highest-priority concern is the small business market and the economy in the 6th District, Kilmer said.

Kilmer, 39, who now lives in Gig Harbor, replaced Congressman Norm Dicks, a Belfair Democrat who represented the 6th Congressional District — which includes the North Olympic Peninsula — for 18 terms before retiring last year.

Dicks announced his retirement March 3, and Kilmer announced his candidacy March 5, winning the general election against Republican Bill Driscoll.

On Wednesday, Kilmer was on his first official trip to Clallam County, where he grew up, since he was sworn in as a freshman member of Congress on Jan. 1.

On Tuesday, he visited Grays Harbor County.

Today, he is expected to tour the Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office in Port Angeles and visit a Port Angeles-based company.

“Its always neat to be home,” Kilmer said.

While running for office, he put 34,000 miles on his car, he said.

“I'm coming out very strong on lower gas prices,” Kilmer said, smiling.

Kilmer outlined his career path, from a state senator representing District 26 to Congress, as a way to do something about what frustrated him about the way government worked — or did not work.

Since arriving in Washington, D.C., Kilmer has received two committee assignments: the House Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“I'm thrilled with my committee assignments,” he said.

He said the largest employer on the Peninsula is the Navy, and the science committee has influence in federal research and science education.

“More and more jobs are going to depend on us doing a good job in that arena,” he said.

The committee also has an effect on the “composites corridor” that is emerging on the Peninsula, he said.

The Wild Olympics bill died at the end of the last session, and no decision has been made to reintroduce it, Kilmer said.

“At end of Congress, all bills that didn't pass have to be reintroduced. Right now, I will listen to people on both sides — just get a lay of the land,” he said.

Kilmer said he will maintain three offices: in Port Angeles, Bremerton and Tacoma.

Kilmer remained after the meeting and talked with constituents, who traveled to the Forks meeting from as far away as Port Angeles.

Among them were Bob Pens­worth of Joyce, who was concerned about communications issues in Neah Bay, Richard Coulson of Port Angeles, who discussed the use of all terrain vehicles in national forests, and Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Paul McHugh.

Last modified: January 30. 2013 6:44PM
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