From an initial group of 45 applicants, the Port of Port Townsend staff, consultants and a commissioner have winnowed to seven the number of candidates for Port executive director who now move on to the next round of scrutiny.

An executive session of the three-member Port Commission, scheduled for January 8, 2020 at about 3 p.m., is expected to further reduce the list of applicants to four semi-finalists, according to Executive Director Jim Pivarnik. At that time, the names of the four finalists will be announced, he said.

Also in mid-January, the Port Commission plans to invite the general public to meet and question those four finalists. Details are still being discussed and will be announced. Key Port stakeholders such as marine trades, pilots, Port employees and invited community leaders will also be meeting and questioning the finalists.

With community feedback in hand, the Port Commission is expected to question the finalists in executive session on January 15, 2020 to winnow the field down further or perhaps make a hiring decision.

By that time, new District 1 Commissioner Pam Petranek will be seated and will vote on the new executive director. Petranek won the seat currently held by Steve Tucker in the November election. Tucker will remain involved in the process on a consulting basis, said Pivarnik.

In any event, the Port’s new executive director is expected to be on the job by March 1, 2020, said Pivarnik. Pivarnik himself, who was the Port’s facilities manager and then deputy director for 15 years, and then returned in October 2018 as executive, expects to work alongside his replacement for up to four months, going into retirement on June 30, 2020.

One of his key assignments was to find a qualified replacement to guide the Port.

“We believe we have seven who are quite good, and within them are four who I believe are exceptional,” said Pivarnik. “The decision is going to be up to the commission, not the staff, but I believe we have a very strong group. They have diverse talents and are all capable of doing this job.”

The initial cut from 45 to seven was done in a hiring committee that included Port Commissioner Pete Hanke, Port staff and a consultant from Karras Consulting, based in Olympia, Wash.

Pivarnik noted that the Port still has challenges, but that the voter-approved Industrial Development District tax levy, which authorized up to $15 million for capital projects, marked both public support of the Port and provides needed funding for infrastructure. The Port Commission recently elected to collect $805,000 in IDD funds in the upcoming fiscal year.

Among the 45 early applicants for the job was one from Australia and several with considerable port experience, said Pivarnik.

Based on the suggestions of the Port Commission, the Port published a list of qualities and traits to be sought in a new director. Among them:

  • The presence to be considered a peer by fellow government leaders
  • The ability to effectively delegate tasks
  • Be both a visionary and a tactician, implement steps to achieve goals
  • Be experienced in port issues, including an existing network of connections
  • Be an active listener, emphasize inclusion and build consensus both within the Port operation and in the community
  • Recognize and appreciate the unique character of the Port of Port Townsend. “Rather than pursuing transformational change that would undermine this character, the new ED will seek to maintain and preserve it.”