Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber takes over as the new CEO of the Port of Everett on Oct. 15. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber takes over as the new CEO of the Port of Everett on Oct. 15. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

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Port’s new director looks ahead to ongoing waterfront revival

Lisa Lefeber says she’ll help build “a balanced waterfront” with jobs, Navy operations and recreation.

EVERETT — Lisa Lefeber, the Port of Everett’s deputy executive director, likes to describe the port from stem to stern. Her narrative starts at the Mount Baker terminal in Mukilteo, continues north to the seaport and working waterfront, then continues to Waterfront Place near 13th Street and West Marine View Drive, and the Riverside Business Park on the Snohomish River.

After nearly 15 years with the port, it’s a trajectory Lefeber knows well.

At every point, there’s something new: new cargo cranes, new lodgings, new restaurant, new Grand Avenue Park pedestrian bridge and new tenants, including Amazon, the online-retailer.

Lefeber, who holds the No. 2 position at the port, is about to assume the top leadership post.

This month, she’ll take over for CEO Les Reardanz, who is stepping down to focus on caring for his aging parents and greater military duties.

It’s a milestone for the 101-year-old port. When Lefeber takes the helm on Oct. 16 she’ll become its first female CEO.

Her promotion was unanimously approved by the port’s three-member commission this summer. She’ll earn an annual salary of $193,000, the same as Reardanz.

It’s an honor to lead “in a community that has become home to me,” Lefeber said.

“I look forward to continuing in my predecessors’ footsteps of building a balanced waterfront that supports commerce, Navy operations, jobs, recreation and creates a destination on the beautiful Everett waterfront,” she said.

The port is a major economic partner, said Mayor Cassie Franklin. “I’m thrilled to know (the port) will continue with strong leadership. Lisa has proven she is a driven, forward thinking and strategic leader,” Franklin said.

A former journalist who graduated from Western Washington University in Bellingham, Lefeber began her port career as its spokeswoman in 2005.

It was a new position. The port wanted to keep people better informed about a growing list of projects, she said, including the North Marina development and an effort to take possession of the Mukilteo (fuel) Tank Farm from the Air Force.

In 2010, Lefeber earned a master’s degree in public administration from Seattle University.

Through the years, she took on roles of increasing responsibility, including a stretch as the port’s acting CEO.

In 2018, she served as acting CEO for nine months while Reardanz, a captain in the Navy Reserves, was deployed in Afghanistan.

Lefeber, 38, grew up in Auburn. “My dad put up billboards and my mom drove a school bus,” she said.

“I spent a ton of time on the water. My aunt worked at Foss (Maritime).”

Lefeber credits her hardworking family with her work ethic and fortitude. “My dad used to say I never took ‘no’ for an answer,” she said.

Lefeber’s advice to young women and young men is be flexible:

“You never know where life is going to take you,” she said. “It’s good to plan and be prepared but don’t be so fixed in your career path that you forget to live.”

Lefeber lives in Bothell with her husband Scott Lefeber and their two sons, ages 7 and 9.

Her mentors include John Mohr, the port’s former executive director, Connie Niva, a former Port Commissioner, and Les Reardanz — “three people that really supported me over the years,” she said.

The Port of Everett is the third-largest container port in Washington, after the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

By value, the port supports the shipment of between $21 billion and $30 billion in imports and exports each year.

The seaport’s revenues drive the development of the recreational waterfront, Lefeber said.

For the past decade, the seaport has contributed the lion’s share of revenue — 65 percent — derived from the Port of Everett’s three business segments: shipping, the marina and waterside real estate.

It specializes in moving high-value, oversized cargo, including all the ocean-shipped parts for the Boeing 747, 767 and 777 production lines, and serves ships from all over the world.

A $57 million modernization project at the seaport’s South Terminal dock, underway since 2015, is scheduled to be completed this year, Lefeber said.

Lefeber was the driver behind securing $22 million in state and federal grants and loans for the project, port officials said.

Structural improvements will allow the dock to more efficiently handle oversized containers carrying aerospace parts and other heavy cargo. Although the port can accept those components now, the larger ships carrying them often jut out into the waterway. Other renovations will allow ships to plug into shore power and turn off their diesel engines.

Next year, two larger cranes with a greater load capacity than the existing cranes at Pacific Terminal will be installed at the South Terminal.

“We’re working on recruiting a shipyard,” Lefeber said.

Shipyard operations ceased in 2017, when Vigor Marine left. Any new operation would occupy the former shipyard’s footprint, located on the seaport’s northern edge.

The port also celebrates a new federal Marine Highway designation this year. The Marine Highway concept, a U.S. Department of Transportation initiative, is aimed at increasing the use of the nation’s waterways to transport goods, thus reducing the number of trucks on the highways.

The federal designation allows the port to expand its barge service between Everett and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. That service could take hundreds of trucks off Interstate 5 each month — one of the most gridlocked corridors in the nation. Barges are slow-moving, low-impact and low emission, said Lefeber.

The rule of thumb?

“Every container equals one truck,” she said.

Hotel Indigo, a 142-room hotel that overlooks Port Gardner, officially opens this month. The hotel at 1028 13th St. is a key feature of the port district’s Waterfront Place development, a multimillion dollar makeover.

The hotel also brings with it a new restaurant, the Jetty Bar & Grille.

Located on the building’s southeast side, the restaurant overlooks the new Pacific Rim Park and splash fountain. The park, which celebrates the port’s global trade mission, opened this summer.

Slightly east of the new hotel, SeaLevel Properties and Gracorp have broken ground on the new Waterfront Place Apartments at 1300 and 1400 West Marine View Drive. Last monthy, they secured a $67 million construction loan. Two, four-story buildings with 266 apartments are planned. The north building, with 135 units, is targeted for completion in spring 2021. The 131-unit south building is expected to follow in summer 2021.

“The project will bring housing to the Everett waterfront for the first time,” Lefeber said.

The port’s Riverside Business Park — an 86-acre business park — also welcomed a new tenant this summer: Amazon. The Seattle-based online retail giant is opening a new distribution center at the industrial center along the Snohomish River in northeast Everett near BNSF Railway Co.’s Delta Yard.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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