A controversial condemnation process, bustling waterfront development, a change in leadership and even a tussle over parking fees should increase interest in one race for the Port of Everett’s board of commissioners.
Commissioner Glen Bachman, first elected in 2013, following his appointment that year, is running unopposed for District 3 and will be the sole name on the general election ballot, but three candidates filed for election to the District 1 seat: incumbent Bruce Fingarson, David Simpson and Jeff LaLone. Voters in the Aug. 6 primary will determine the top two candidates who will move on to the Nov. 5 general election.
District 2 Commissioner Tom Stiger won re-election in 2017 to his second six-year term.
The three are seeking election at a time when the Port has started an eminent domain process to condemn the former Kimberly-Clark mill site to put its 67 acres in public ownership and allow the port to make good on plans for a maintenance shipyard and other maritime development. But those plans clashed with a rival development proposal from private maritime companies who had offered to buy the property from the papermaker.
As that process plays out, and as the port continues with construction and development plans on the Port Gardner waterfront and the Riverside Business Park along the Snohomish River, it was announced earlier this week that the port’s chief executive of five years, Les Reardanz, a Navy captain and attorney, is stepping down following his promotion to a supervisory role with the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Port commissioners, satisfied with the leadership shown by the port’s deputy executive director, Lisa Lefeber, during Reardanz most recent eight-month deployment to Afghanistan, are now in contract talks with her for the post that Reardanz will leave in October. That decision heads off a search for a new chief executive, but will still require some transition time for the board as Lefeber takes the helm.
And just to show that no decision is too small to cause controversy for the port: After the port began charging a $2 parking fee near Boxcar Park, the site of the long-running Everett Farmers Market, the decision was made to move the market to downtown Everett, beginning Aug. 4.
Seeking to serve as the port addresses those and other issues are:
Bruce Fingarson was appointed to the District 1 post in 2017, following the resignation of Troy McClelland that August. Fingarson, a retired Boeing supply chain manager with more than 35 years experience in foreign and domestic trade relations, has served for 18 months and now faces election to complete the two years remaining in the current six-year term.
David Simpson’s past elected experience includes a term on the Everett City Council from 1997 to 2001 and appointment and service in the state House for the 38th Legislative District in 2004.
Jeff LaLone is co-owner of Everett Bayside Marine and an advocate for recreational boating and fishing. LaLone did not respond to requests to participate in The Herald Editorial Board’s interview process.
Fingarson and Simpson appear to agree on most policy involving the port and on the role that the port plays in economic development and its ability to create and support family-wage jobs in the port district, which includes north and central Everett, Mukilteo and Spencer and Ebey islands.
Both support the commission’s decision to seek the former Kimberly-Clark site through eminent domain, in particular the need to preserve the public’s interest in the site to protect the viability of a deep-water port of statewide significance and its railroad access, as well as continuing to serve the interests of Naval Station Everett.
Both also expressed interest in working with the two maritime companies who also sought the former mill site for development of fish-processing and wharehouse facilities. Both see the possibility to work with the companies to include those facilities on port property while proceeding with the port’s other plans for the site.
With both agreed on most issues, the choice comes down to experience.
Simpson, a University of Washington graduate and a former Boeing engineer, has a long resume in addition to his time with the Everett City Council and the Legislature. In the past he has served on a charter review board for Snohomish County, on the Everett Planning Commission, with Snohomish County Tomorrow’s steering committee and on the Everett Housing Commission, among other public boards.
Simpson also has secured several endorsements from local officials, including state Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek; County Council members Terry Ryan, Stephanie Wright and Brian Sullivan; and Sheriff Ty Trenary.
Fingarson’s work at Boeing, however, seems the closest fit to the needs of the port board, in particular his involvement with international trade. While with Boeing, Fingarson was part of the team that developed facilities and logistics for Boeing’s railroad pier that accepts components from Japan for the 777 program. Fingarson, a graduate of Washington State University, has a degree in business administration and accounting, providing useful budgeting background to the commission.
While emphasizing the port’s export-and-import cargo-handling facilities, Fingarson said he seeks a balanced port that has overseen improvements for its marine terminal and wharf, marine trades, and the development of recreation, marina, retail, tourism and housing. As well, he takes the port’s environmental stewardship seriously, citing the port as best able to oversee the cleanup of toxic debris from the Kimberly-Clark site.
Fingarson, having joined two veteran commission members, provides his related experience but also the perspective of a relative newcomer.
Fingarson, with 18 months under his belt, now deserves to finish the remaining two years of term he was appointed to.