PORT TOWNSEND — The new executive director steps into his role today at the Port of Port Townsend with a five-point list of priorities.
Eron Berg, the city supervisor/attorney for Sedro-Woolley since 2007, credited the three-member port commission with a clear direction when he attended the board retreat Feb. 25.
“My No. 1 goal is to get to know the port,” he said. “I want to take my time and get to know the people, get to know the community, get to know the issues, and then get started on working on all these fairly big projects.”
Berg accepted the job in January and will work alongside Jim Pivarnik, who has been in the position since October 2018.
Berg’s starting salary will be $155,000 annually, Pivarnik said.
Pivarnik, who served for 15 years as the port’s deputy director before he left to manage the Port of Kingston, plans to retire at the end of June.
Berg said Pivarnik will work in a “special projects” status with valuable background knowledge.
“He’ll be there primarily to help me transition,” Berg said. “We’re going to have time for him to do other things, too. We’ll make sure we can utilize his expertise for 3 1/2 months.
“I think he’ll be very helpful for me to have that time. To have a couple decades of experience kind of leading me in is really great.”
The commission wants Berg to get to know port tenants and how they operate. It also has directed him to develop a plan to complete a list of funding projects for the $16.8 million voter-approved Industrial Development District (IDD) levy that will be collected over as many as 20 years.
“The project list put out by the port talked about maintaining existing infrastructure,” Berg said. “There seems to be a broader list of projects.”
He said he wants to combine those funds with another commission goal — to identify new economic opportunities to ensure the port remains viable in the future.
“My hope would be to match other money and create a more aggressive project list,” Berg said. “We want to create jobs and add value to the port going into the future.”
Berg also said he wants to maintain transparency in operations.
“I heard an interest in an uptick in communications to ensure the public is fully informed,” he said.
An additional goal is to create a policy to evaluate the port’s assets and surplus those that are under performing and don’t serve another public benefit, Berg said.
Pivarnik included Berg in ongoing conversations with the Washington Historic Trust for Historic Preservation, which signed a two-year agreement last month for an exploratory phase with the port and its property at Point Hudson.
“I see it as a great opportunity to explore,” Berg said, adding he met with Chris Moore, the executive director for the trust. “I think we have a lot more questions than answers at this point, but it sets the table.
“Point Hudson is so important to the community and it does provide a decent amount of revenue to the port, but it also has huge maintenance demands.”
Berg said Point Hudson needs to be marine trades-oriented while it maintains its historic character.
“How do you maintain viability of what’s already there?” he asked.
“I expect to be very involved in those conversations with the trust as soon as I start and throughout that process.”
Berg credited Pivarnik and other staff members for its current operations.
“This is not a port in crisis,” he said. “There are issues, but there are also tools to solve them.
“[Pivarnik’s] been part of making that happen.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].