By The Herald Editorial Board
Long a driver of economic development in the region, the Port of Everett has recently seen an increase in activity — and stories in The Herald — as port-led development advances at the former Kimberly-Clark mill site and work progresses to clean up toxic contamination there; recent projects on the waterfront to build housing; the recent renovation of its South Terminal and even plans to develop a “wine walk” with winery and distillery tasting rooms at Waterfront Place Central.
That activity should also increase interest and visibility for the election of one of three members to the Port of Everett’s board of commissioners.
The incumbent District 1 commissioner, David Simpson, has served on the board since January 2020, after winning election to complete the final two years of a six-year term. Simpson, with 51 percent of the vote, defeated the incumbent, who had been appointed 18 months prior, following a resignation at the post. Simpson is challenged by Scott Murphy, who twice won election to the Everett City Council following his appointment to fill a vacancy in 2013.
Both Simpson and Murphy offer impressive resumes and have earned endorsements from a broad spectrum of officials, residents and organizations in the region.
Simpson, a Navy veteran and former Boeing engineer, is the first African American to serve on the port’s board. He has previously served in the state House for the 38th Legislative District and on the Everett City Council. As well, he served on the county’s charter review committee, on the Everett planning commission, with Snohomish County Tomorrow, the Everett Housing Authority Commission, the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County and the Snohomish County Committee for Improved Transportation. And he has served on the boards of directors for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County and the Everett Cultural Commission.
Murphy, president for Goldfinch Bros. glass company and a certified public accountant, currently serves on the public facilities district that oversees Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena and is a board member and chair of the audit committee for Mountain Pacific Bank. He has served as the city council’s representative on the Snohomish Health District board and as a previous board chair for North Everett Little League, the Community Foundation of Snohomish County and the Everett Public Schools Foundation.
Voters won’t find a great deal of disagreement between the two on various port projects, responsibilities and goals, particularly the port’s ability to support jobs and encourage economic development, as expressed during a recent joint interview with the editorial board.
Both men are supportive of the leadership role the port has taken in remediation and redevelopment of the Kimberly-Clark site, maintaining a strong relationship with the U.S. Navy as it builds on its presence on Everett’s waterfront and the opportunities the port has developed to provide sites for housing in a city that needs to add to its stock of housing to serve a growing population.
One area of disagreement, however, regards the properties where that housing now is being built. Murphy said he wanted to see more discussion by the port board regarding a long-term lease of property rather than an outright sale to developers. Simpson said that consideration was made, and — as it always is on a case-by-case basis — it made more sense to sell rather than lease the property to developers of the housing developments.
Murphy, however, made the point that his review of port board meetings doesn’t show a great deal of give-and-take among commissioners on the decisions before the board. Simpson disagreed and said port staff and others provide the information and background the board members need to discuss and make decisions that benefit the district and the public.
But the typical consensus of a three-member board stands in contrast to the more diverse discussions and even disagreements among seven council members that Murphy is accustomed to, and it’s that level of discussion that Murphy believes would now benefit the port and its taxpayers. Such questioning, he said, can provide more transparency and insight into the work of the port.
Toward that end, Murphy said he wants to see the port’s board of commissioners expanded to five members, and commissioner’s terms of service reduced to four years, rather than the current six years. Simpson said he was supportive of both changes, but Murphy appears most committed to leading the public process that such a change would require.
These are active times for the Port of Everett, with increased opportunities to build on the economic development and the jobs it already provides. That increase in opportunities, however, will require greater scrutiny by the public and a commitment to more visibility from its representatives regarding the port’s discussions.
Simpson and Murphy — during many years of service — have shown themselves as committed to their community and have leadership experience that would serve the port district well, regardless of the election’s outcome. Murphy, however, promises to bring a higher level of transparency to the proposals and discussions that come before port commissioners.