Longtime Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan was put on leave last week in a surprise, unanimous vote by the port commission.
Port Commissioner Joe Downing said the commission decided it is "time for a change" at the port. Downing said the decision, which included naming an interim director, was not linked to any specific thing Galligan did.
Perhaps that is true.
But if this move truly represents a desire for fresh blood and a new direction, it would be great if commissioners said more about what they have in mind.
If a more profitable marine terminal is the direction sought by Downing and Commissioners E.J. Zita and Bill McGregor, we'd like to hear about that. The commission's evaluation of Galligan's work done in March 2017 showed ongoing concern about the port's continuing financial issues.
The port has been losing funds at its marine terminal for several years once depreciation costs for port assets were included in the equation. The port’s financial footing was a theme in the port commission elections last fall.
Critics often seize on the ship terminal's losses, though complaints don’t always account for the spin-off value to our community that port operations generate. It's possible that cruise ships docking at the terminal starting in September can help improve the financial equation.
Galligan has worked without a contract since he began as executive director in late 2005. His pay was raised to a little over $151,000 a year ago in a split vote with Commissioner Zita opposed.
Dissension has been a feature of port politics in recent years, and Galligan's interactions with Zita were sometimes intense. There have been heated interactions between commissioners, too, over disclosures of pending military shipments or the shipment of materials used for natural gas fracking.
After the port commissioners met again in executive, or closed door session, on Wednesday, there was no resolution to whatever issues the commission has with Galligan. Commissioners are expected to meet behind doors again this week to continue their review of Galligan.
They are also expected to revisit how new interim director Rudy Rudolph can manage his new role on top of his double-duty managing the port's airport and real estate operations.
The commissioners' unanimity about Galligan was not the only sign in past months that they are working better with each other.
But it would help the community if they decide Galligan's fate quickly. They should also explain how things will get better with a new director.