EVERETT — Local leaders are making their case for an aircraft carrier to come back to Naval Station Everett.
Two carriers have called Everett home in the past. The USS Abraham Lincoln was here for about 15 years. The USS Nimitz replaced it in 2012, and left for maintenance less than three years later. The ship was expected to return after 16 months, but it’s now been homeported at Naval Base Kitsap in Bremerton for three and a half years.
The Nimitz is the oldest aircraft carrier in the Navy, and has been in service for 43 years. It’s the lead ship in a class of nine others. The USS Gerald R. Ford was commissioned about a year ago. It’s the first in a new group expected to phase out the older Nimitz-class vessels, which have a life expectancy of about 50 years.
Naval Station Everett employs about 3,000 people, making it the fourth largest employer in Snohomish County. The base is home to six warships, called destroyers, which have a crew of about 300 people each. Those numbers don’t account for their families, many of whom move to the area.
Each aircraft carrier has about 3,000 sailors — meaning the arrival of one in Everett could double the number of people who work on the base.
Earlier this month, Mayor Cassie Franklin went to the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, where she embedded with five branches of the military along the East Coast. During that time, she had a chance to experience some of the rigors of new recruits.
“It was certainly hard to be a recruit with the Marines,” she said. “I got a little beat-up and bruised.”
She visited the Pentagon, where she had the chance to speak with representatives from the Department of Defense about the importance of having a carrier here.
She took a tour of the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, and asked questions about the ships. The lessons she learned during her trip will help her lobby for an Everett carrier to military officials, she said.
Naval Station Everett nominated her for the week-long program. About 40 people were chosen, out of hundreds of applicants.
The Navy hasn’t announced whether a carrier is going to be stationed in Everett again, or which ship it would be, said Kristin Ching, a spokeswoman for Naval Station Everett.
“The base was initially designed around homeporting a full carrier strike group and would still be able to support a carrier if that were the Navy’s decision,” she said. “The Navy evaluates the placement of ships based on capabilities and resources needed over the long range.”
Bob Bolerjack is the city of Everett’s executive director of governmental affairs. He works with the naval station on behalf of the city, and with state and federal lawmakers.
He hopes the Navy makes an announcement regarding the placement of a carrier in Everett by fall. He expects to see one of the ships here in 2019.
“The Navy is going to take into consideration a number of factors,” he said. “Age of a ship is certainly one of them if they want to assign something to Everett for a long time.”
It’s not just the jobs that a carrier brings, but also the people and pride that come with it, Bolerjack said.
“We value all the ships in Naval Station Everett, but there is something special about having a carrier here,” he said.
Naval Station Everett is the newest base built by the Navy. It opened in 1994. Three years later, the USS Abraham Lincoln arrived.
It was a towering fixture on the city’s waterfront. It was deployed at the beginning of the Iraq war for 10 months. Former President George W. Bush announced the end of major combat in Iraq on its deck in 2003. An article in The Daily Herald described the ship’s return as one of the city’s “biggest civic celebrations, ever.”
The Lincoln moved in 2011 to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. The Everett Silvertips mascot, Lincoln, still wears a jersey with the ship’s number, 72.
The Nimitz took its place in March 2012, and stayed for less than three years. It headed to Bremerton for what was expected to be a 16-month maintenance period. It now has been at Naval Station Kitsap for about three and a half years.
During the time Naval Station Everett has been without a carrier, four destroyers have arrived. The brand-new USS Ralph Johnson warship docked here in April. Capt. Mark Lakamp has been the commanding officer during each of these arrivals.
Lakamp’s duties were taken over by Capt. Michael Davis on Friday morning, in a change that takes place about every three years. Lakamp’s next assignment is as the commanding officer of Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at the University of Nebraska.
Both captains gave a short speech during the ceremony, thanking their families and the community. They shook hands.
Davis moved here from Hawaii, where he was a deputy division chief at the United States Pacific Command. He enlisted in the Navy in 1988.
Davis gave his wife jewelry as a celebration gift, and his young son an oversized teddy bear. He hopes to build on the relationships Lakamp has earned with the people who live here, he said.
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey @heraldnet.com. Twitter: @stephrdavey.