If last night’s early election returns are any indication, the five-member legislative body that governs the Port of Seattle is going to remain unchanged in the wake of this year’s election — the first time that has happened in a long time.
Incumbent Commissioners Bill Bryant and Gael Tarleton, who each ousted incumbents back in 2007, appear to be easily cruising to reelection. Bryant holds a commanding lead over challenger Dean Willard, while Tarleton has a more modest (but still strong) lead over perennial office-seeker Richard Pope.
(Full disclosure: I’m proud to acknowledge that Gael Tarleton serves as president of NPI; she is one of the board’s three officers.)
In the last few cycles, the Port Commission has seen significant turnover. The longest-serving commissioner is now John Creighton, who has only served one and a half terms. Eight years ago, the Port Commission consisted of Pat Davis, Bob Edwards, Paige Miller, Lawrence Molloy, and Clare Nordquist.
Nordquist was defeated in 2003 by Alec Fisken, who was himself defeated by Bryant in 2007. Miller chose not to seek reelection in 2005; she was succeeded by Lloyd Hara, who left the commission after one term to run for King County Assessor. Hara’s spot on the commission was taken by Rob Holland in 2009.
Molloy was defeated in 2005 by Creighton, and Edwards was defeated in 2007 by Tarleton. Davis chose not to seek reelection in 2009 after coming under fire for alleged misconduct; her seat was filled by Tom Albro.
After nearly half a dozen election cycles, it appears voters have finally found a set of port commissioners that they like. Admittedly, Richard Pope didn’t really mount a serious or credible challenge to Gael Tarleton, but Bill Bryant did have an active and well-versed challenger in Dean Willard.
The Port of Seattle has undergone significant change over the last decade. Gone is Mic Dinsmore, and gone are the lax ethics policies that made the Port synonymous with cronyism. Gone too are the commissioners who rubber stamped Dinsmore’s every request, like Pat Davis. Since Dinsmore’s departure, the Port has become a much more responsible and transparent institution. It no longer generates the kind of controversial headlines that it once did.
The Port still has room for improvement. In the years ahead, we’d like to see a greater emphasis on environmental and economic justice, now that the Port has largely resolved its internal difficulties.
We’d also like the Port to start doing a better job of communicating with the people of King County. Many people are not aware of just how important the Port is to our local economy, let alone the fact that the Port of Seattle is actually a countywide jursidction. The Port needs to build stronger ties to the people it serves.