On the first day of his retirement, outgoing Port of Port Townsend Executive Director Larry Crockett is going to take a few shots.
It turns out that one of Larry’s passions is precision shooting. So on Wednesday, June 1, Larry will be at the Jefferson County Sportsman Association honing his skills on his Colt National Match .223 and Springfield M-1A .308 rifles, preparing for the monthly high-powered rifle competition held each month at the club. If he does well enough, Larry hopes to take the opportunity to hit the road to compete at various competitions throughout the country.
Recognizing and seizing opportunity is a constant theme in his life, but perhaps no place better illustrates this than Port Townsend. After retiring with his wife Ellen to the Victorian Seaport at the end of a 3 decade career in the United States Army, Larry had no intention of leaping into another career. However, after 6 weeks of “retirement” Ellen took the opportunity to tell her husband that he’d best find something productive to do with this time.
In 1999, things were changing in Port Townsend. The City was considering a switch to a strong Mayor/City Manager form of government, and the Port of Port Townsend was looking for a new leader. Larry went to City Council Meetings, Port Commission meetings, and eventually took a position on the County’s Planning Commission before deciding to pursue the Port ED opportunity.
He still remembers how he felt at the end of his first day on the job at the Port, April 1, 1999:
“I remember the end of that first day – April Fools Day – standing at the corner of what now is the Commission building. And looking across the marina and the snow-capped Olympics and thinking ‘this will be interesting.’”
It certainly proved to be that.
Point Hudson was top of the agenda back then – the Port was laying the groundwork to reassume ownership of the property. Between building, environmental, and funding issues, there was a significant array of challenges to address. In the background was a severe cash crunch that had forced the Port to take out a line of credit to pay the bills.
Larry credits his experience in the military with giving him the perspective and toolkit to tackle these challenges from day one.
“My first command in the military, they put me in charge of a really challenging unit – everything had gone wrong, from personnel issues, training issues – everything. I came out of that one smelling like roses, and I realized that if you go for the really tough jobs that no one else wants, there is only one direction to go, and that is up. I knew the Port situation was also tough, but I had the good fortune of 3 excellent commissioners – Bob Sokol, Herb Beck and Conrad Pirner – who knew exactly where they wanted to take the organization, and I knew they supported me. So that made it relatively easy.”
Over the subsequent 17 years, Larry says the Port has accomplished a great deal, sometimes navigating the difficult waters of multiple State and Regional bureaucracies, and other times seizing opportunities that presented themselves.
“When I look back at what we’ve accomplished, I’m struck by the constant progress we’ve made. We got the Port back on a solid financial footing and have kept it there. Developing Point Hudson into the campus its become, helping establish the Northwest Maritime Center, and the extensive improvements at Boat Haven, like the A/B docks and the new lift pier – these are all positive improvements. We developed the airport into one of the finest general aviation airports in the Pacific Northwest, and I think the Port’s role stepping in to purchase land to facilitate the expansion of Coast Seafood in South County has led to it becoming the largest employer in that area.”
These developments notwithstanding, Larry believes that the next decade is crucial for both the Port and the community as a whole. In addition to addressing and mitigating the potential effects of sea level rise, environmental concerns surrounding stormwater runoff are likely to be front and center over the next few years. In addition, many of the buildings that were constructed during the 1960s need significant and expensive repairs – in a time when funding for those repairs is significantly less than it was in that earlier “golden age.”
But as always, Larry sees opportunities all around.
“I was sitting in Doc’s [Marina Grill] last week enjoying dinner, and I looked around at Point Hudson with all the boats and people and thought ‘you know, I’m really proud of the work the community did to get this done.’ And I see what’s coming up, and I’m really interested to see how the Port and community meet the opportunities and challenges ahead.”
Meanwhile, Larry’s ready for his own next adventure.
“You know, the first 20 years of my life I served my parents; the next 30 years, I served my country; the last 17 I served my community. Now – it’s time to have some fun.”