Port of Port Angeles Needs to Look to the Future

By Jim McEntire and five other former Port of Port Angeles commissioners, August 10, 2013, Peninsula Daily News

As former Port of Port Angeles commissioners, we write this commentary because we universally believe the Port of Port Angeles can and will get through this recent controversy with its vitality intact, and its focus renewed on its chief mission of fostering economic progress for Clallam County.

Anyone who has served as a locally elected official knows of the hard policy and personnel decisions that must sometimes be made.

Resolving thorny legal and personnel issues that are always intertwined is often not a thing of beauty — and, in particular, privacy considerations make it very difficult to explain to the public what just happened and why it was resolved in any given way.

Our sympathies are with the port commission and port staff as they are emerging from this obviously difficult time.

Our purpose in writing though, is to invite the public’s focus on the future of the Port of Port Angeles.

Most importantly, the public should retain confidence in the port’s mission of economic advancement for our county.

This is the vital part of why in the early 1920s, Clallam County voters created the port as an arm of local government, and it is what has animated generations of port commissioners and port employees.

We urge the people of Clallam County to (1) look beyond the controversies of the moment; (2) ignore the politics of envy (which corrodes community spirit) and (3) support the port’s efforts to both improve our economy and deal with large environmental issues that are a legacy of Port Angeles’ past.

Hiring and retaining good and capable port employees is not necessarily an inexpensive proposition, and those costs are borne by the port’s customers — not Clallam real property taxpayers. This is longstanding and wise policy.

Gaining and retaining customers (who create economic growth and more well-paying jobs) is what the port’s operations properly do; therefore, Washington’s public ports function just like any private-sector business.

The Port of Port Angeles’ unique and historic role is to provide “patient capital,” i.e., your tax dollars, in procuring and maintaining publicly owned economic assets — airports, docks, wharves, industrial areas, marinas and the like, used by private individuals and businesses to create economic growth.

The port has done that well over the years, and it needs to continue.

In particular, we applaud the port commission’s decision in hiring an interim executive director, and urge the public’s support for hiring a permanent executive director as soon as the port’s operations and staff are stabilized.

This is critically important: Port executives facilitate the port commission’s historic role in creating and overseeing good strategy, policy, plans and an annual budget.

And executives nimbly run the day-to-day operations of the port, just like in any business.

Meanwhile, we encourage the commission and staff — along with the public — to maintain focus on the economic future of our county and the vital role the Port of Port Angeles plays in it.

The personnel and legal controversy is in the past, and its future value lies in the lessons it brings to both leadership and staff.

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