Commissioners expected to pick new port director Tuesday

EVERETT — Port of Everett commissioners say they’re ready to pick a new port director when they meet Tuesday.

Whoever follows outgoing director John Mohr will have to manage a long list of ambitious projects covering everything from cleaning up decades-old pollution to redeveloping weed-infested, largely vacant property.

Work has already started on some projects, while others have extensive plans ready to act on.

The port’s three commissioners agree that the next director needs to be able to execute those plans.

They say they feel good about the finalists, but they aren’t revealing who they are. The pool of several dozen applicants was whittled to four finalists, who were interviewed by commissioners earlier this month.

After the interviews, “my sense was we all felt pretty confident about a particular candidate,” Port Commissioner Troy McClelland said.

All the candidates have port experience “by one definition or another,” Mohr said. He helped pick the finalists and has agreed to stay on through Jan. 2.

For much of the past century, the port was home to mills and other industrial operations. Countless numbers of logs moved through, but that had begun to decline by the time Mohr arrived in 1997.

Mohr credits his predecessors with beginning the transition from a waterfront dominated by smokestacks. Much of that evolution, though, happened on his watch.

“A lot of these properties, when I came here, were abandoned or all-but-abandoned former mill buildings not adding a lot of value to the community,” he said.

Many of those buildings have been torn down, and some new structures have gone up. The port is finalizing plans for redeveloping the central waterfront.

The port earlier partnered with a private company, Everett Maritime, to redevelop that area, but the company’s financing fell through after the recession.

“We were committed to Everett Maritime, and when they failed, we failed,” Mohr said.

This time, the port plans to retain control of the project and team up with private companies for specific sections.

The port’s to-do list also includes improving the marina, filling a largely vacant business park, upgrading shipping terminals and tackling a long list of environmental cleanup projects, the legacy of its long industrial history.

“There were no environmental rules back in the day,” he said.

Environmental regulations have become much more stringent during the three decades he has worked for ports in Oregon and Washington, he said. “I had to learn a lot of it on the job.”

Earlier this month, the port began the last phase of cleaning the former Everett Shipyard site, which is contaminated with lubricants, petroleum and heavy metals used in paints.

“Nearly everything we do at the port has to do with the environment,” Port Commissioner Tom Stiger said.

Much of the port’s roughly $4.4 million property tax revenue goes to environmental projects. Its 2014 budget includes about $7.7 million for environmental cleanup.

The port takes in about $32 million from operations and $40 million from all sources. The marine terminals are the largest source and are expected to bring in about $22 million this year.

“There’s plenty of opportunities for my successor, almost too many,” Mohr said. “The challenge is doing the right things in the right order at the right time.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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