Q&A: Seattle Port Commission President Tom Albro

The Seattle Port Authority will appoint a new commissioner to fill a vacancy. What kind of port commissioner is needed and why? (Sponsored Content)

Seattle Port Commission President Tom Albro

Seattle Port Commission President Tom Albro

The Port of Seattle, founded in 1911, is among the nation's largest port authorities with more than $900 million in annual budget. In the coming weeks, the Port will fill an open commissioner role created by the election of current commissioner Gael Tarleton, who was elected in November to the Washington state legislature.

The Port is advertising on Crosscut and in other media outlets in order to solicit applications from which commissioners will appoint a new commissioner to replace Tarleton. The Port held an informational candidate forum on January 22nd, and video from that can be seen here.

The Port recently published its Century Agenda, designed to create 100,000 new jobs over the next 25 years. Crosscut's Partner Voices Page sat down with port commission president Tom Albro in his office to ask more about the commimssioner they hope to attract. 

Why is it important for the Port of Seattle to cast the net wide to find a new port commissioner?

We care to make a great appointment because this is one of the tremendous economic engines for our region and state.  The port’s success matters a great deal to our economic success.  We have more umph to deal with social issues when we are stronger economically. We want to be able to grow 100,000 port-related jobs in the manufacturing, culturual, tourism (you name it) sectors.  It’s vital, and it’s not easy.  The big challenge for us is we have a very balkanized government aproach.  There is no one or three agencies, including the port, that has the jurisdictional reach that can drive economic success – no one agency is responsible for taxation, environmental regulation, business policy. In order to move the needle we need to have very effective political advocacy to other jurisdictions and help tell the story of why policies need to change whatever they are. And that’s a big lift. We need a strong commission

What is the profile of the commissioner you hope to attract?

This is my view. You could ask other commissioners and they would have their own thoughts. We would all agree you have to know the city, the county and the region.  If you just showed up yesterday it wouldn’t really help.  You wouldn’t know the ‘why.’  You need the background.  You need to have a pattern of engagement, integrity, smarts sufficient come up to speed quickly though there is a learning curve we all experienced.  We want a complement to the rest of us in terms of viewpoint, background, geography.  We value having 5 people serve as commissioners and we want it to be diverse.  This is a significant political job and so you have to be willing to spend the time.  That is easier said than done because it is not a position that is highly remunerated and so that narrows the potential field.

What are some of the duties the new commissioner will have?

External advocacy for polices that promote job growth. We must do the things that create jobs.  That is why we exist.  We must have the ability to provide the public oversight of a very large institution.  There is a reason why we have a publicly elected commission.  This is an executive not a legislative commission that just passes budgets and pocieis.  We run the place and that is a tall responsibility.  Being responsive to the community and not allowing yourself to become entrenched in any one set of views or beholden to any one interest.  It goes back to the attributes but they tie together.  We are elected at-large, countywide, so we can think more regionally.  It’s a sacred trust.  You've got to be up to it.  It’s a significant undertaking when you recognize we serve 39 cities, 1.1 million voters, 2 million residents in King County. This is the big Kahoona of our state.


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