David Simpson (left) and Scott Murphy.

David Simpson (left) and Scott Murphy.

Port of Everett candidates spar over transparency

An incumbent, David Simpson, is challenged by Everett City Councilmember Scott Murphy.

EVERETT — Two candidates are seeking a six-year term on the Port of Everett’s three-member commission.

The winner will make decisions affecting the state’s third-largest port, which operates on a $61 million budget, supports more than 40,000 jobs and moves $21 billion in cargo per year.

Incumbent David Simpson, who has served on the board since January 2020, is seeking re-election. A retired Boeing manufacturing engineer and Navy veteran, Simpson was elected to complete the remaining two years of a six-year term. Simpson defeated Bruce Fingarson, who was appointed to the position after a previous commissioner resigned.

Simpson is challenged by Scott Murphy, who has served on the Everett City Council for nine years. Murphy, an accountant who is also president of Goldfinch Brothers, is relinquishing his City Council seat to oppose Simpson.

Both candidates support the port’s continued economic expansion.

But they have significant disagreements about recent decisions and how they were reached.

Murphy contends there is a lack of transparency on the part of the port commission. Murphy believes a $36 million project to expand the cargo and shipping terminal at the former Kimberly Clark paper mill site was approved with very little discussion or dialogue.

“As a CPA, I would have asked for a better business case, better information on the impact of the costs and the payback period,” Murphy said. “There may be dialogue and discussion on these topics in the background, but the commission meetings don’t reflect that.”

Simpson disagrees: He said port staff and others provide the information board members need, to make decisions that benefit the port and the public.

“The port commission is open and encourages communications between the port community, the public and the commission,” Simpson said.

One decision that may have been made too quickly, Murphy said, was the commission’s approval of a $590,000 payout to the Bargreen family because they didn’t like the color of the two newly installed cranes at the South Terminal.

“I would have been very reluctant to agree to that settlement,” Murphy said. “I would have been more interested in pursuing that in Snohomish County court before a jury. Sometimes it makes sense to settle a case, but sometimes you have to step back and draw the line.”

Simpson, one of two commissioners who approved the payout, said he weighed the impact a court battle would have on port workers.

“I voted for the payout so that our port’s economic development vision can move forward,” Simpson said.

Murphy also said he would more closely examine deals in which the port sells property to housing developers.

“Long-term leases could be an alternative, rather than selling the property for a one-time pop,” he said. Simpson has said those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

The Port of Everett includes Everett, Mukilteo and Spencer and Ebey islands. District 1 includes parts of north Everett, from the waterfront east to the Snohomish River.

Simpson’s past elected experience includes a term on the Everett City Council from 1997 to 2001, and an appointment to the state House of Representatives for the 38th District in 2004.

Simpson has also served on the Everett Planning Commission and the Snohomish County Committee for Improved Transportation.

He is the first African American elected as a commissioner in the port’s history.

“I hope my presence on the port commission will promote new opportunities for underrepresented communities to serve in the maritime industry,” Simpson said.

The port has seen major expansion the past two years, including upgrades to the South Terminal and two newly installed cargo cranes, which allow the port’s working waterfront to accommodate larger ships and heavier cargo. Waterfront Place Central, near the marina, is the site of the new Hotel Indigo. The first-ever waterfront residence, Waterfront Place Apartments, opened doors to tenants this year.

Work has progressed in the cleanup of contamination at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site, which the port purchased this year in a $36 million project to build a new marine shipping terminal there.

Simpson approves of the commission’s current course.

“On my watch, we’ve guided our port to be more competitive in the region, created family-wage jobs, generated revenue and ensured our environment is protected,” Simpson said.

Simpson’s priorities are keeping the port competitive while protecting its natural assets through sound environmental policy.

He supports the Blue Heron Slough Development to benefit threatened salmon species and other wildlife.

“One of our main issues is creating jobs and finding opportunities for our port to keep moving forward,” Simpson said. “The Port of Everett is well positioned for even more economic growth and recovery.”

Murphy said he is giving up his City Council seat to serve the community in a different way, “on the waterfront.”

“We have numerous opportunities at the port as we emerge from the pandemic,” Murphy said.

Like Simpson, Murphy views the port as a significant driver of the regional economy, responsible for 40,000 direct and indirect jobs.

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

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