EVERETT — Port of Everett CEO Les Reardanz has been called to active duty with the Navy for an eight-month deployment mostly in Afghanistan.
He’s scheduled to serve from February through October. He’ll work with a command group in Afghanistan that trains and assists Afghan National Security Forces.
“Everything is subject to change when you get boots on the ground,” Reardanz said. “You never know what you end up doing.”
Last week, the Port of Everett Commission voted unanimously for Lisa Lefeber, the chief of policy and communications, to serve as acting CEO.
“I’m looking forward to him coming back,” Lefeber said. “But I look forward to the challenge.”
It’s a busy year ahead for the port with the development of the Fisherman’s Harbor District, bringing homes, shops and a hotel to the central waterfront area.
The port also is undertaking one of its biggest projects ever, a $36 million reconstruction of its south terminal wharf to accommodate bigger ships with larger, heavier cargo.
Reardanz noted that Lefeber has worked at the port for 13 years, has a master’s degree in public administration and has a deep understanding of its ongoing projects.
“That’s why Lisa is perfectly situated to to do this,” Reardanz said. “She’s been heavily involved in all of these things. She’ll take over and execute the plan.”
Reardanz is a captain in the Navy Reserves, the equivalent of a colonel in other military branches. He has been in the Navy Reserves since the 1990s, and has been called up three other times, but not while working at the Port of Everett.
He attended college at the University of California, Davis, during the 1980s and then went to Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. After graduating, he served at a Los Angeles law firm for a year.
Then, the first Gulf War broke out. Reardanz had always been intrigued by the military so he joined the Navy. He started serving after the Gulf War was finished.
He served for six years with the Navy, assigned to the JAG Corps, or Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which works with military law and justice. At one point, Reardanz was a legal adviser for the Navy SEALs. He left active duty in 1997 after he and his wife had two children. He continued with the Navy Reserves.
“I didn’t want to bounce around anymore,” Reardanz said. “The reserves was a great compromise to stay in the Navy, but allow my family to put down roots.”
He took a job at a Seattle law firm and later went to work for the City of Bellingham. He joined the Port of Everett in 2011 and became the CEO-executive director in 2014.
He’s continued to spend parts of each year in the Navy Reserves, most recently he was assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.
Reardanz was called up in 2003 during the start of the second Gulf War and again in 2004. Both of those times, Reardanz served in Qatar and Iraq. He was called up a third time in 2008 to serve in Afghanistan. He spent eight months traveling the country.
“The last time I was there it was in a similar position,” Reardanz said. “I was going out to the various provinces working with the cops, courts and prison systems and working with the Afghan prosecutors, judges and prison wardens and trying to coordinate international investment and where it should go to advance the rule of law.”
American combat operations officially ended in 2014 and there was a draw down of troops during the Obama administration. The Trump administration has gone in a different direction and has sent 3,000 additional troops to the country.
Reardanz received the call in October that he would be called to active service. Family and friends have asked him about his safety.
“There’s a few things that I probably shouldn’t talk about and that’s one of them,” he said. “It is what it is. I haven’t been briefed on the security situation over there. So I really don’t know.”
He’ll head first to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for three weeks of training before being deployed. The port couldn’t find any other port CEOs who have been called to active duty, but city employees such as public works employees and police officers get called up from time to time.
“We did have to pass a special resolution though to account for this, because it is unique,” Lefeber said.
Reardanz thinks his stint in Afghanistan will be positive.
“Quite honestly, doing these things makes you a better leader, a better person and, overall, a better citizen,” Reardanz said. “I’m hopeful our organization here at the port will be better for it as well. Having Lisa take over as acting director will be a great thing for the organization.”