PORT TOWNSEND — More than 40 residents of Jefferson County met at the Maritime Center to hear from the four finalists for the executive director position of the Port of Port Townsend.
The four candidates had approximately five minutes to give a brief explanation of their qualifications and history, and then the floor was opened to a question and answer session with the attendees Tuesday night.
The four candidates are Eron Berg, Tony Warfield, Travis Matheson and Andy Haub, and each candidate was brought in one by one in that order for their 30 minute session.
No candidates were allowed to watch and listen to the other’s responses.
The finalists were selected from a pool of 45 applicants that was then whittled down to six semifinalists and finally narrowed to the four by the three port commissioners on Jan. 8.
Interim executive director Jim Pivarnik does not expect the commissioners to decide on who will be offered the position until next week at the earliest, but they could take until the end of the month.
The commissioners met Wednesday morning in executive session to begin discussions about the candidates and review public input.
Before the public session, each of the finalists also met with the staff members of the port and another group of stakeholders made up of members of the marine trade leaders, community leaders, moorage tenants and pilots.
Berg is the city supervisor and city attorney for the city of Sedro Woolley and works with a total of 90 people and an annual budget of $38 million.
Berg spoke to his experience with capital projects that he has overseen as a previous mayor and current city supervisor of Sedro Woolley — such as a $10 million library project — and how he has found funding for them.
He hopes that his prior experience receiving grants and government funding could be used to help fund needed infrastructure projects at the port.
“I’ve been engaged in capital projects back to my role as mayor,” Berg said. “I think a lot of these projects are ripe for both partner opportunities and funding from other entities because they’re vitally important for the community.”
Warfield is the senior manager of facilities development at the Port of Tacoma, overseeing spill response, permit compliance, State Environmental Policy Act compliance and assisting tenants with improvement projects.
Warfield said if selected he would focus on clear communication between the commission, staff and port users, and finding new ways to generate revenue for the port.
“I’m very invested in making sure the Port of Port Townsend thrives,” Warfield said. “Every minute I’m not locked in my chair, I would be walking the docks.”
Warfield sees the need for economic growth and infrastructure improvements, and would want to take new partners on to benefit the port, but in a slow, community input-driven way.
Matheson works for the State Patrol in Olympia as the lead of the property management division and also serves on the Port of Olympia citizens advisory committee.
Matheson oversees 300 State Patrol facilities across the state, 63 employees and a $153 million two-year budget in his current position.
Matheson would want to focus on the market rates of the port itself and try to attract other large businesses, such as a flagship restaurant, but doesn’t have a concrete vision for a long-term plan for the port.
“It’s difficult for me to have a vision from the outside looking in,” Matheson said. “It’s not just one person’s vision, its a collaboration.
“My style is very much asking a lot of questions. I want to turn the tables and learn from all of you.”
Haub served as the water resources director for Olympia, retiring in April of 2019 after working for the city for 28 years and was responsible for 70 employees and a $30 million budget — the largest budget in the city, Haub said.
Haub read through prior past planning and strategy work that the port has done previously and wants to help the port’s tenants and marine trades better market themselves.
“It’s all good and it’s headed in the right direction but I didn’t get a sense of where the port is headed from those documents,” Haub said. “I didn’t come up with the vision where the port and the community want to go regarding maritime activity.
“I would suggest that we would need to spend some time on planning, initiatives and goals and specific goals that we would want to accomplish.”
In terms of the infrastructure issues, he said he would address them “analytically and logically,” addressing them by what is in most immediate need for repairs, such as the breakwater at Point Hudson.
More information about the finalists’ qualifications can be found at tinyurl.com/PDN-qualifications.
Comments about the candidates can be sent to the commissioners, whose emails are listed at tinyurl.com/PDN-PortComments.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].