Sue Gunn, the embattled Port of Olympia commissioner who was in danger of losing her job if she failed to be excused from future commission meetings, has decided to resign. She announced her decision in a letter emailed to The Olympian on Friday.
“I regret to inform you that I have decided to resign from my position on the commission effective April 1, to allow myself the time I need to heal from recent heart surgery and associated complications,” Gunn said in her letter. “There has been considerable pressure on me from the port, and from one of the commissioners, to return rapidly, which is not conducive to the extensive healing needed. It’s necessary to take the time required to recover from this complex medical event.”
Gunn underwent surgery on Dec. 18.
The commissioner referenced in her letter likely is Bill McGregor, who has not supported the idea of excusing her from commission meetings since Feb. 17. She previously was excused by the commission between Nov. 24 and Feb. 16. His argument has been that if something should happen to either himself or Commissioner George Barner during her absence then no port business could be conducted because of a lack of a quorum.
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“I think (critics of McGregor’s decision) should realize that it is simply a move to begin a process to ensure that the citizens of the community, who elected us to serve them, are being served as expected,” McGregor said Monday.
Under state law, if a port commissioner is not excused for 60 days, then the port can begin the appointment process to fill the seat. That deadline would have been April 18. The two remaining commissioners now will have to vote to agree on a replacement for Gunn. If they cannot agree, the vote would go to the County Commission.
Gunn said that she has notified Barner, president of the commission, about her decision, and has mailed resignation letters to McGregor and port Executive Director Ed Galligan.
Barner, who at the two previous commission meetings had made motions to excuse Gunn, could not be reached Friday.
Gunn by phone Friday added that she doesn’t have the energy, given the state of her health, to pursue the job the only way she knows how: to research and analyze port issues and explore what they mean to the taxpayers, environment and the community at large.
“Doing the homework is very important to me,” she said.
Gunn, 66, defeated District 3 incumbent Jeff Davis in the November 2013 election.
She did not represent the status quo at the port and, at times, clashed with the commission.
In one memorable exchange, Gunn proposed eliminating the port’s citizens advisory committee and replacing it with two new community advisory councils — one focused on the airport, the other on the marine terminal.
Barner’s reaction was swift, saying the proposal would amount to “citizens volunteering to run the port.”
“I don’t buy that at all,” Barner said at the time.
Gunn said Friday that there was this feeling during her tenure that if you “didn’t saddle up philosophically with the port, you were the enemy.”
Asked whether she was considering legal action, Gunn said she doesn’t have the wherewithal to fight. “I have to get healthy,” she said.
She also, in her resignation letter, outlined some of her work while on the commission, including questioning the need for a proposed fuel dock at Swantown Marina and voicing support for strategic planning, with extensive outreach into the community.
“If these ideas resonate with you, my hope is that you, the voters, will continue to articulate these priorities to the port and insist that thorough analysis and accurate reporting accompany all port decisions and that the port find new, sustainable economic opportunities in the county,” Gunn said in her letter.