Port of Olympia commission agrees to fill vacancy by June 8

The Port of Olympia commission will appoint an interim commissioner by June 8 to replace Sue Gunn, who resigned in April due to illness. The commission will begin taking applications Friday.

Commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor agreed at Monday’s commission meeting to a three-week application process closing at 5 p.m. May 8.

The June 8 target is the quickest of three options on the table for replacing Gunn, who resigned April 1. The appointee will fill the District 3 vacancy until the general election is certified Nov. 24.

Meanwhile, because Gunn resigned before the local candidate filing deadline of May 15, the District 3 seat is also up for election in the fall. Several candidates filing to run would trigger a primary election in August. So far no one has filed to run for Gunn’s seat.

Gunn defeated former commissioner Jeff Davis in November 2013, then set out to challenge the status quo at the port, saying she wanted to bring transparency to port finances and operations. She said the environment, sustainability and strategic planning also were important to her.

But in December, Gunn underwent open-heart surgery. Complications arose and she was hospitalized again.

It was during that absence that McGregor decided to stop excusing her from meetings.

A commissioner can lose the job, according to state law, if he or she is unexcused from meetings for 60 days. In Gunn’s case, the 60-day period began Feb. 17.

McGregor has defended his position, saying he needed 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.

Gunn’s supporters have asked the commission to appoint someone like her, and they did so again Monday.

Steve Segall of Olympia said during public comment that they should appoint someone with “values consistent with Gunn’s values.”

Although the port commission is set to fill the vacancy by June 8, the port does have 90 days from April 1 to make a decision. That date is June 30. If no decision is made by then, the decision falls to the Thurston County Commission. If they can’t decide, it goes to the Governor.

The commissioners said they will begin accepting applications for the interim position Friday, and set aside April 29 for a tour of the port for any interested applicants. Applications will be distributed to the commissioners for review on May 12, and a meeting to evaluate them, if need be, on May 21. Finalists will be selected May 26, the list publiished May 27, and interviews with finalists will be held the week of June 1.

Applications will be available on the port website, portolympia.com.