Fans of Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn, who is set to resign from the commission on April 1, stated their case to the two remaining commissioners on Monday night and urged them to appoint someone who would be supported by her constituents.
Olympia resident Sherri Goulet took that effort one step further by delivering a petition to the commission that showed the names of more than 200 people who feel the same way.
Goulet, reading aloud from a prepared statement, said that Gunn was a strong advocate in several areas for the port, including the environment, transparency and budget accountability to taxpayers.
“To continue the work Commissioner Gunn began, we request that you involve the supporters of Sue Gunn in choosing an appointee who represents the views and values of the voters who put (her) in office,” Goulet said.
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Others in attendance made similar comments during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“I’m concerned her replacement might not share her values,” said Zena Hartung of Olympia.
Gunn underwent open-heart surgery on Dec. 18, and had been excused from port commission meetings between Nov. 24 and Feb. 16. She had expected to return within two months of her surgery, but then experienced complications that led to another hospitalization.
But on Feb. 17 the commission stopped excusing her from meetings. That decision came to light most notably on Feb. 23 when Commissioner George Barner made a motion to excuse Gunn from the meeting, but his motion was not supported by Commissioner Bill McGregor.
McGregor has said since then that he was only trying to protect the commission quorum. If something should happen to either him or Barner during her absence, then no port business could be conducted, he has said.
But others in the community have viewed it as an attempt to push Gunn out.
Olympia resident Bev Bassett referred to McGregor’s stance Monday night as “unbelievably hostile and undemocratic.”
Under state law, if Gunn’s absence had gone unexcused for 60 days, she could have been replaced. That date would have been April 18, but the commission never got that far because Gunn announced her resignation on March 14.
McGregor took a different tack on Monday night, following public comment.
“I heard what was being said tonight, and I appreciate your viewpoint and I’ll take that under consideration,” he said.
The port commission has 90 days to appoint someone from Gunn’s district beginning April 1, the effective date of Gunn’s resignation. Gunn’s district, District 3, includes west Olympia.
At the same time, because Gunn is resigning before the local candidate filing date of May 15, her District 3 seat now is up for election in the fall, according to the Thurston County Auditor’s Office. The winner in November would complete the final two years of Gunn’s four-year term.
Gunn defeated incumbent Jeff Davis in November 2013.