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Sea change for ferries: National search planned for new leader

David Moseley brought about changes while surviving a rough ride. The state Department of Transportation talks hopefully of keeping up his good work.
David Moseley is resigning as the head of Washington State Ferries.

David Moseley is resigning as the head of Washington State Ferries. Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington state's newest ferry, the Chetzemoka.

Washington state's newest ferry, the Chetzemoka. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)

It will likely take two months or more for a replacement to be found for David Moseley as director of Washington State Ferries. His resignation, announced quietely earlier in the week, becomes effective on April 15.

A nationwide search is planned to replace the man who for six years held what one legislator called "one of the most difficult jobs in state government." His immediate predecessor lasted only three years and it's been unusual for ferry directors to make it to five years.

The new assistant transportation secretary for ferries will be leading a system facing budget difficulties and possible service cuts stemming from the Legislature's inability to put together a long-range transportation revenue package in the past two legislative sessions.

Legislators who worked with Moseley, 66, praised him for his open touch with the public, which included attending countless community meetings, routinely riding ferries, and writing a weekly Internet column for Washingtonians. "He has a very wry sense of humor, which helped him get through a lot of tough situations," said Sen. Christine Rolfes, a Democrat who represents the overwhelmingly ferry-dependent Bainbridge Island.

"He did a good job in an incredibly difficult situation," said Sen. Kevin Ranker, a Democrat who represents the entirely ferry-dependent San Juan Islands.

The difficult situations included a KING-TV investigation into labor abuses among ferry crews, a mass of ferry cancellations last fall because of a lack of crew members, new ferries that tilted slightly when empty, and a lack of strong, long-term revenue sources. But he implemented numerous cultural and organizational changes, and improved relations with the public. He also led a switch of design work on new ferries from in-house to outside contractors, something meant to enable the WSF to concentrate on ferry operations.

Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson said in a statement, "David can be proud of his distinguished service at WSF and the many accomplishments he has made while at the helm of the ferry system. ... During his tenure, WSF began replacing the many aging boats in the fleet. Six new ferries, including three 64-car Kwa-Di-Tabil class ferries in operation, and now three new 144-car Olympic class are funded and being built, and will soon join the fleet." Peterson also pointed to more than 450 meetings in ferry communities, and praised innovations in the use of online trip-planning tools and an ongoing expansion of a reservation system. 

In his online column, Moseley wrote, "Six years ago when I came to Washington State Ferries it was an agency in crisis.... Recognizing that the Ferry system is in a stronger position than when I came six years ago, I have decided to leave as head of the Washington State Ferries." 

Moseley did not have any maritime experience when he took over in 2008. He had been director of the Seattle Department of Community Development, and then city manager of Steilacoom, Ellensburg and Federal Way. Moseley, the holder of a master's of divinity degree from Golden Gate Theological Seminary in California, was vice president of the Institute for Community Change, a nonprofit organization that helps governments and nonprofit organizations with initiatives, when former Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond appointed him ferries director in 2008.

Just as will be the case with his successor, Moseley walked into a high pressure job. Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island and chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, said, "You have thousands of citizens in the state dependent on the success of the ferry system."

Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor and a former U.S. Navy battleship captain with a huge interest in ferry issues, praised Moseley for how he moved the ferry system from an agency under the Washington Transportation Commission to being purely a branch within the state Transportation Department. That change occurred over the frequent objections of an entrenched system that served an often-irate ferry passenger community. "I give him high marks for connecting with the communities," Seaquist said.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

The photo caption is incorrect. The Chetzemoka is not "Washington's newest ferry" -- three more have been built since, including two more 64-car ferries and a 144-car ferry, the Tokitae, that is fully built and was just christened today.

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 1:19 p.m. Inappropriate

What he said on the newness of the ferries.

On to Preacher Moseley. As much effluent as I and others have pitched at him from time to time, he is a standup guy, relatively forthcoming (for a bureaucrat) and as he likes to say "everything at ferries is complicated"

Did as well as anyone could expect.

I fear the "nationwide search" that almost guarantees you will get someone elses castoff, likely someone in trouble, whose peeps will give an excellent reference for, just to get him out of town.

We need someone who will call a spade a garden implement, and who will find deep truth, and say boldly what needs to be said.

Sayeth the Geezer

Geezer

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 9:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Geezer, that will never happen from a paid shill.

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 7:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, he gave us ferries that cost twice what they should have and that lean to the side. For Washington democrats running WSDOT, that's called a "great job". Also see "520 bridge pontoons" and "Bertha".

Does Moseley get a gold watch too?

Simon

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 9:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Those were not Moseley decisions.

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 9:30 p.m. Inappropriate

The man was a figurehead. First hired as WSF Communications officer then changed to "head". No clout.

WSDOT and WSF are a mess and cannot be fixed without an entirely new house in upper management and middle management. I personally do not believe the unions are the main problem, despite the no-show shift issues of last summer. Those were symptoms.

Posted Thu, Mar 20, 9:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Mosely was mainly hired to mitigate the massive complaints and hide the damage to Whidbey Island and Port Townsend after Paula Hammond pulled the 4 Steel Electrics from service after service on Wednesday of Thanksgiving Weekend 2007.

It's been a shameful and disgusting non-transparent situation.

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