Port of Olympia commission chooses Michelle Morris for open seat

Rolf Boone, June 10, 2015, The Olympian

Michelle Morris was appointed to the Port of Olympia commission on Wednesday, with the commission deciding to maintain the diversity of the board by appointing a woman.


The decision also honors a community request to appoint someone whose values were similar to those shared by former commissioner Sue Gunn.


Morris, 60, was one of eight people who applied to fill the temporary position on the commission after Gunn resigned April 1 to give herself more time to recover from open-heart surgery. Gunn also felt pressured by the port, she has said.


“I’m really excited to get the business (of the port) moving forward,” Morris said after the announcement, adding that she has a lot of homework to do.


Morris, who co-owns a consulting business called Sound Resource Management Group, was sworn in Thursday morning at the Thurston County Auditor’s Office. Her first port commission meeting is set for June 22. She has the seat until the general election is certified Nov. 24.


She said one of the first things she wants to get involved in is helping update the state Environmental Policy Act as it relates to the port’s marine terminal.


“I’m so proud of them,” Morris said about the commission’s decision.


Eight people, including four who also are running for the District 3 seat in this year’s election, applied for the temporary appointment.


Commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor agreed at the beginning of their discussion on that they would not consider appointing any of the four who have decided to run for the seat.


Those four are E.J. Zita, Bob Jones, Jerry Farmer and Larry Goodman.


“I was very, very impressed with Zita’s responses and commentary,” Barner said about her answers to interview questions.


“(But) it appears to me that it would be inappropriate for a commissioner to select one of those people who are committed to running for office because that would give that one individual a leg up on the other three.”


McGregor agreed, so the two had to consider whether to appoint Fred Finn, a former state lawmaker; Dick Pust, the former longtime voice of KGY Radio; George Sharp, a local business owner and the former executive director of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau; or Morris.


Then it got interesting.


McGregor’s recommendation was Finn, citing his legislative experience and his experience working on port issues at the state level.


But Barner disagreed, saying he wanted to support the actions of District 3 voters when they elected Gunn.


“I think the issue of diversity is a serious issue and is new to this commission, but is one that was said loud and clear by the electorate when they elected (Gunn),” Barner said.


His choice was Morris.


And just like that, McGregor changed his mind.


“Because I don’t want to see this go to the (Thurston) county commissioners, because I don’t think it’s their decision, I think it’s our decision, I’m going to second that motion and I’m going to second it because I want to welcome Michelle to our commission,” he said.


“Thank you very much for moving this process forward so quickly,” Morris told the commission.


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