EVERETT — An open seat on the Port of Everett Commission has drawn three candidates for the non-partisan position in Tuesday’s primary election.
The winner of the November election will fill the remaining two years of a six-year term through 2021.
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.
Fingarson, a retired Boeing supply chain manager, drew two opponents in the primary: Jeff LaLone, who runs a marine business at the port, and David Simpson, a former Everett City Councilman and state lawmaker. The remaining two-year term runs through 2021.
Fellow commissioner Glen Bachman is unchallenged in District 3.
The Port of Everett includes north and central Everett, Mukilteo and Spencer and Ebey islands. District 1 includes portions of north Everett from the waterfront east to the Snohomish River.
The Port’s authority was questioned by some in June, when the commission unanimously approved an eminent domain process to condemn the former Kimberly-Clark mill site.
The commission has said it would put the property’s 67 acres in public ownership.
However, those plans clashed with a rival development proposal from private maritime companies which had offered to buy the property from the papermaker.
Critics say the port’s actions could jeopardize plans to bring more jobs to the waterfront.
Fingarson supports the commission’s policies and characterized them as long-range plans that are focused on development “20 to 50 years” in the future.
“I believe the current strategy is moving the port in the right direction,” Fingarson said.
“I wanted it (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. The port has a solid strategic initiative,” he said. “Its been trying to acquire the property since 2012.”
Still, Fingarson is interested in working with the two maritime companies that made a bid for the property.
Fingarson is proud of being part of the team at Boeing that sought to make Everett the direct port of call for 777 components in the early 2000s.
Before the change, ocean-going 777 parts were offloaded at the Port of Seattle and brought by train to the company’s Everett assembly factory.
The working cargo seaport is the port’s bread and butter. (For the last decade, the seaport has contributed the majority of revenue — 65 percent — derived from the port’s three business segments: shipping, the marina and waterside real estate, the port has reported.)
Fingarson said he is “focused on a balanced waterfront” that includes growing jobs and increasing public access to the waterfront.
“I will remain an active listener and, responsible steward of the environment while managing the port’s access,” Fingarson said.
Challenger Jeff LaLone has been a business tenant at the Port of Everett for more than three decades.
Over the years, he’s been a regular at port meetings, he said.
“My office is about 500 yards from the port office,” LaLone said. “I’ve been thinking about running for the last 10 years.” Like Fingarson, he has never held elected office.
LaLone, co-owner of Everett Bayside Marine, said he’s a strong believer in open and transparent government.
At times, he said, the commission has made decisions without explaining its behind-the-scenes process, which includes the vote to initiate eminent domain at the former Kimberly-Clark site.
LaLone would support the condemnation, “if the port is going to put the property to work and bring in more longshore jobs,” he said.
If elected, he would strive to offer the public a better understanding of why commissioners voted for or against an issue, “whether that’s a property acquisition or a project at the terminal,” LaLone said.
“I would be a better advocate for voters,” LaLone said. “I want to see this waterfront be a gem.”
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.
Simpson, a former Boeing engineer, said in a statement for the Voters’ Pamphlet he wants to change the culture and diversity of the commission. “We face big challenges demanding creative thinking and leadership to stay competitive.”
Simpson supports the decision to seek the former Kimberly-Clark site through eminent domain as a means to protect the viability of the deep-water port and support its crucial economic role.
Simpson said in an editorial board interview with The Herald he is interested in working with the two maritime companies that sought the former mill site for development of fish-processing and warehouse facilities.
He sees the possibility of working with companies to secure a port presence while proceeding with other plans for the former Kimberly-Clark site.
The port needs to focus on continued economic development to increase the number of family-wage jobs and generating revenue through “quality expansion” that includes environmental safeguards, he said.
“Most importantly, I’ll listen to citizens of Port Commission District 1,” Simpson said.
Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods