EVERETT — In the months since the August primary election, the Port of Everett has undergone a sea of change.
The first completed private development at the port’s Waterfront Place, Hotel Indigo, officially opened this month.
Across the street from the new lodgings, Sea-Level Properties broke ground on a 266-unit apartment complex. Boats Afloat, a Seattle-based floating boat show, announced that it would move its annual event to the Port of Everett next fall. Amazon established a fulfillment center at the port’s Riverside Business Park in northeast Everett.
Earlier this month, Lisa Lefeber became the port’s first female CEO. The port’s three commissioners approved a $33 million agreement to buy Kimberly-Clark’s former waterfront mill property, and said it was negotiating with Everett Ship Repair to lease property for a shipyard to locate south of the former mill.
This is the backdrop for the nonpartisan District 1 port commissioner race.
Both candidates support these recent economic strides.
The Port of Everett boundaries include north and central Everett, Mukilteo and Spencer and Ebey islands.
Bruce Fingarson, the current District 1 port commissioner, was appointed to serve on the three-member commission in August 2017. Applicants were solicited and Fingarson was selected to replace Troy McClelland, who resigned to take a job in Massachusetts.
District 1 includes portions of north Everett from the waterfront east to the Snohomish River.
The winner of the general election will fill the remaining two years of a six-year term through 2021.
Fellow Port of Everett Commissioner Glen Bachman is unchallenged in District 3.
Fingarson, a retired Boeing supply chain manager, says he is focused on creating a balanced waterfront that includes job growth and expanding public access to the waterfront.
Challenger David Simpson’s past elected experience includes a term on the Everett City Council from 1997 to 2001. He was appointed to the serve in the state House of Representatives for the 38th District in 2004.
Fingarson supports the commission’s policies and long-range plans that are focused on development 20 to 50 years out.
“I believe the current strategy is moving the port in the right direction,” he said.
That direction includes the acquisition of the Kimberly-Clark site and negotiations to bring a shipyard to the port; the focus on environmental stewardship and maintaining the Marina “as a first-class facility.”
“I wanted the Kimberly-Clark site to be owned by the port, the citizens of Everett,” he said.“I didn’t want to see it split up into many pieces.”
As for the working waterfront, which brings in about a two-thirds share of port revenues, Fingarson supports upgrades to ensure it remains competitive.
“We’re a niche market,” Fingarson said. “We’re not going to compete with the ports of Seattle or Tacoma on quantity of containers. We focus on oversize and bulk containers,” he said.
“Investing in the waterfront is critical. There are a lot of jobs down there.”
Fingarson said he’s experienced the steep learning curve that serving as a port commissioner demands.
Unlike his challenger, Fingarson hasn’t held elected office. “I was tucked away at Boeing for 36 years,” he said. During that time he was part of the team at Boeing that sought to make Everett the direct port of call for 777 components in the early 2000s. “Fifteen to 20 years later — think of all the business that brought in,” he said.
Before then, oceangoing 777 parts were offloaded at the Port of Seattle and brought by train to the company’s Everett assembly factory.
Simpson, a former Boeing employee, said he wants to change the culture and diversity of the commission.
He’ll work to identify economic development opportunities “that will guarantee a strong workforce and support apprenticeship programs.”
“We face big challenges demanding creative thinking and leadership to stay competitive,” he said.
Simpson also supports the port’s current growth and development projects but would like to see them expanded.
“I would like to work to see the port be better positioned to compete with other ports in the region like Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland,” he said. “This would continue to make the Port of Everett a great place for businesses like Boeing, the military, and foreign countries like China, to do business.”
Both Fingarson and Simpson support the current growth and development at the port.
Simpson cites a history of public service, including serving on the Everett Planning Commission, as a reason to vote for him.
“I want to use my policy-making experience to build and maintain port revenues.”
He supports the purchase of the former Kimberly-Clark site as a means to generate family-wage jobs. “I’m all about staying competitive.”
At the same time, “our port should make environmental health their number one priority as the port expands to ensure the safety of the district’s people,” he said.
The port should be ready to handle natural hazard events if they occur, as more ships use the port as a port of call.
To that end, Simpson said he would advocate that the port consider establishing its own police and fire departments on the waterfront.
He would also urge the port to consider building and operating parking facilities at the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal and other locations, as a source of new revenue.
“There are ports that are in charge of parking lots — it’s something we should look at,” he said.
“It’s time to think outside the box,” Simpson said. “I’m ready to go to work.”
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097.