PORT TOWNSEND — Port of Port Townsend commissioners reached back to move forward in naming former deputy director Jim Pivarnik as interim executive director for one year following the resignation of Sam Gibboney on Wednesday.
His start date will be Sept. 18.
Commissioners Steve Tucker, Pete Hanke and Bill Putney voted unanimously to hire Pivarnik, who will be paid the same salary as the outgoing executive director — $132,000.
Pivarnik, 66, worked at the port for 15 years under former executive director Larry Crockett. He left in 2015 to accept the executive director position at the Port of Kingston. He formally resigned his position there Friday afternoon.
Acting director Eric Toews presented commissioners on Friday with a letter of interest from Pivarnik. Toews had given Pivarnik an offer letter, pending commissioners’ approval.
After Toews, port planning director and in-house counsel, was named acting director on Wednesday, commissioners tasked him with finding an interim director.
He said he spoke individually with commissioners and asked Pivarnik if he was interested Wednesday afternoon.
“After talking with commissioners individually, and your desire to move swiftly to retain an interim director, and soliciting the potential interest in Jim Pivarnik in fulfilling that role, I took the initiative immediately and prepared an offer letter outlining proposed terms of employment,” Toews said Friday. “What is before you today is that letter that has been offered and accepted.”
After recessing into executive session, commissioners reconvened a public session, discussed the action, heard public comment and voted on the hiring.
Port Attorney Frank Chmelik said that the port is fortunate “to have someone who lives in the community, who is at the end of his working life, and is willing to serve one year. There are people who are interested in serving as executive director but not for this short time frame.”
Pivarnik thanked the commissioners for their support and consideration.
“I’ve always looked at this job as fun and a lot of people think this is crazy but this is how you have to treat this job. You have to come to work and love what you do and love the people you work with.
“I’m coming back to my family. We are a dysfunctional family, but I think we can come together with the direction of the commission and make something really special,” he said.
”At least I can start it before we find that perfect person for you.”
In an interview after the meeting, Pivarnik addressed some of the port’s issues that he feels need immediate attention.
“We all know we need storm water, something has to be done about that. We have to make sure the Department of Ecology is in sync,” he said.
“Maybe we can’t fix it by October, but we need to let Ecology know we will be fixing it and how we will fix it. The breakwater is always in the back of our mind — how we will do that.
“Community relations is a big part of this, continuing to build our capital reserves, and assisting the commissioners and helping them find the next executive director,” he continued.
”I’m the treasurer for the Washington Public Ports Association. I know every executive director in the state,” Pivarnik said.
”I can bring candidates for the commissioners to interview that have experience and understanding of the port industry.”
Pam Petranek of the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association spoke directly to Pivarnik.
“Over the past two years, Jim, our boat yard and businesses have been going south. I know when you were here businesses were booming,” Petranek said. “I’m excited to have your experience and expertise. We want to reestablish a relationship with you. We welcome you.”
Northwest Maritime Center Executive Director Jake Beattie said: “I think this is a smart move for a number of reasons. An interim position makes a ton of sense. I think Jim will have a calming effect on the foment around the port. I don’t think you could pick someone better who can hit the ground running, has established relationships. He still probably has keys.”
Pivarnik said he is happy to be helping his community once again.
“This is my last career move,” he said. “I’m going to retire after this. I’m here for a year, maybe a couple months more. After this, I’m going to be in my motorhome travelling the country.
“I’m coming home. I’m coming forward … if I can convey that idea. I’m coming home to go forward.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected]