By Assunta Ng
Will the next Port Commissioner be a male or female? Maybe a person of color? A labor advocate or community college trustee? Will it be someone from Seattle? Auburn?
Whoever it ends up being, the seat vacated by Rob Holland, an African American, needs to be filled.
Why should you care about who the new commissioner will be? The port oversees Sea-Tac International Airport and the seaport, supervising cruise ships and cargo lines for both trade and travel.
The four-man commission, including Holland, had recently selected six females as finalists to fill the position vacated by Gael Tarleton, after she was elected to the State House of Representatives. They eventually picked Courtney Gregoire — daughter of former governor Christine Gregoire and a Microsoft attorney — as the new commissioner.
Then Holland resigned.
Gregoire and the other commissioners — Tom Albro, Bill Bryant, and John Creighton — went through the previous applicants and narrowed them down to seven finalists, including two men. I was at one of the public hearings recently, and six of them showed up.
Including two men is just a public relations ploy. It’s not that I can tell what the commissioners are thinking, but if they choose a man, it would keep last year’s status quo. If that happens, it might show that the commission has moved backwards compared to last year. Conventional wisdom would call for the commission not to vote for another white man because the commission is currently 100 percent white.
Who knows what kind of pressures the commissioners are under? When the formerly all-male commission selected six female finalists, even eliminating well-known politicians, that was a pretty gutsy move. I don’t think the commissioners will yield to the intense lobbying. They are very independent and smart individuals. They know what they do can make a difference.
I am sure the labor groups have lobbied the commissioners very hard to push for a labor representative. At this point, I truly don’t see the need of having a labor spokesperson on the team. The port is supposed to represent all people, not just special interest groups. Besides, labor folks don’t need to worry because the commission is currently made up of three liberal Democrats and one moderate Republican.
Who has the best experience?
Former Senator Claudia Kauffman’s resume clearly stands out. Not only has she been an elected official, she was the only person of color among the finalists. A Native American, Kauffman belongs to a rare network of people who are not easily accessible to the mainstream.
She has a direct connection and background in tribal lands and laws. Moreover, she understands federal and county government. She would be the perfect bridge builder for the Port with tribal leaders.
Olympia is a tough place to deal with. Yet Kauffman knows the state legislature and those who run the show, and the Port needs to negotiate with Olympia constantly. As a former legislator, Kauffman requires no training and introduction and can work with legislators immediately.
Perhaps the Commission is unaware, but Kauffman is also one of the few ethnic leaders who directly involves themselves with other ethnic groups, including the Asian, Black, and Hispanic communities. The commission needs diverse perspectives, and Kauffman is the only one among the finalists who can fill the Port’s leadership void.
The seat is a one-year term. Whoever gets the job has to run for re-election. For Kauffman, it would be ‘been there, done that.’ Although she had breast cancer before applying, she has had surgery and is now resting and doing well.
Who gave the best interview?
Stephanie Bowman’s (the current executive director of the Washington Asset Build Coalition) passion for the job is apparent. She did her homework for the interview. You can tell she wants it and has the confidence to do the job. (end)