By Janice Nesamani
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Challenging the status quo at the Port of Seattle Commission are two women of color running for Position 1. While one is a seasoned politician, the other is a young Port of Seattle staffer. We get a look at what they hope to change if they get a seat at the table.
For a novice politician, Bea Querido-Rico is young, enthusiastic, and seems stress-free. The Port of Seattle employee, who is currently on a leave of absence, cycled to Seattle Center sporting a leather jacket — not your average politician. But armed with an engineering degree from MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program, experience working for the Port of Seattle.
In keeping with her campaign slogan, “Rock it, Bea” emblazoned on a rocket ship taking off above Space Needle, one of the first things Querido-Rico talks about is space travel which will become reality soon. She believes a futuristic view will help the Port remain one step ahead of high tech developments and become a major player in the field. “We have a lot of talented people working at the Port of Seattle. However, we’re busy playing catch-up instead of using our skills to research and develop plans for our future. Whether that is unmanned cargo aircraft, high-speed rail, or projects like the Virgin Galactic. The problem is the culture of the organization. We’re busy following the directives of individuals who are more focused on politics.”
Other topics she hopes to work on are encouraging sustainable practices in the agriculture, fishing, and maritime industries. She also wants to create sustainable relationships with minority-owned businesses in Burien, and other areas close to the Port of Seattle properties. “I want to ease the process of small businesses working with the Port of Seattle. Right now, we direct them to our website and there’s a lot of paperwork that is daunting for them. I have ideas like a farmer’s market at the airport where local businesses can come set up shop for a day, then pack up and leave. How cool would that be?”
She believes that environmental sustainability is a necessity for the organization. However, what seems to be high on Querido-Rico’s list is changing the culture of the Port of Seattle to make it more accountable and transparent. She believes the current situation stifles ideas and opinions of Port employees.
When asked if she’s a little anxious about being pitted against candidates with much more political experience, campaign managers, and strong funding, she says she isn’t worried. “I am the only candidate in the race with direct Port of Seattle Operations experience. I understand how the organization works and can assess the impact of policy decisions. I would be a better person for the job compared to someone new who comes into the organization.”
Speaking about taking on heavyweights such as incumbent John Creighton III and Claudia Kauffmann, Querido-Rico takes us back to her childhood and elaborates on her history of beating the odds. The daughter of immigrant parents who came from the Philippines in 1987, she is the first person from her family to have finished graduate school and take up engineering. She said, “My father taught me to play tennis and I was one of the only girls who played with the boys. Then I went on to finish an engineering degree when my mentor encouraged me to go for it if I wanted to make it in the aerospace field. Even there, I was one of the few women among the boys. I’m also a marathon runner and I’m approaching this election with that mindset.”
Talking about diversity and the representation of colored women on the commission, “Older Filipinos have been talking about youngsters representing the community on the political scale for so long. My parents, too, are very supportive,” she said. Her mother — an accountant — will be coming to Seattle to help her with the campaign. “I see this as a pro-pro situation, it will be great if I win. But even if I don’t, maybe I can inspire younger Filipinos to run for public office.”
Claudia Kauffmann comes from a family of seven kids and grew up in Beacon Hill. She now lives with her family and children in Kent. She used to be a foster parent and looked after 10 children at one time. In 2007, she was the first Native American woman to be elected State Senator of the 47th Legislative District. Kauffmann has a long history of interfacing with government bodies on the local, state, federal, and tribal levels. “As part of the Senate, I played a role in the areas of transport, trade, and economy. I assisted the development of small businesses, supported exports and economic development. I believe my experience put me in this place. I believe the Port of Seattle should be given back to the people,” she said.
Kauffmann was motivated to run for the Port of Seattle Commission because she believes it needs better governance. She points out how the Port of Seattle is surrounded by scandals. Under the incumbent’s leadership, bonuses were given out to the highest officials, which were later deemed illegal. Twelve of the officials then returned the disputed bonuses. Kauffman also pointed to Creighton’s decision to make public the emails of commission employees, and the $1.7 million lawsuit for which he was allowed to choose his own attorney at taxpayer expense.
“I believe that John Creighton III is tired and has lost his way. The Port of Seattle needs fresh new perspective, thoughtful, accountable leadership, and more transparency. I can be that leader,” she said. Kauffmann is prioritizing the work atmosphere in the organization. “I believe I can set the tone for the culture especially at the airport, where we create a work environment where everyone is paid for the work they do. We need to remove barriers that keep people out,” she said.
“I want contracts to be given out to local businesses instead of them being handed out to out-of-state ones, make sure that contracts are being advertised. And services provided by companies are certified.” At Green River College where she is a trustee, Kauffman described how she reviewed a security contract given out for 10 years with an automatic renewal clause for another 10 years. “I stepped in and asked for a change where the contract is not automatically renewed, and evaluated before being extended. This could translate to the airport services, too,” she said.
There is no representation on the local level either, everything is in Seattle. I’m from South King County and Port of Seattle has no presence here. I think my election to the commission will bring about a change in perspective and benefit the tribal and local communities.”
Janice can be reached at email@example.com.