Port of Seattle Commission (Pos. 1) – John Creighton

Candidate Questionnaire

1. Your name

John Creighton

2. Candidate for:

Seattle Port Commission, Position 1
Party Affiliation: Democrat

3. Campaign information

4. If elected, what positive changes will you champion that will benefit the 31st LD?

The 31st Legislative District is home to the second largest import-export warehousing district on the west coast. Moving forward with the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the marine cargo joint venture of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is critical to the shippers and exporters located throughout the 31st District. During the 20 months since we launched the Alliance, we have improved the gateway’s competitiveness and won back cargo and jobs. We need to continue strengthening the Alliance, including finding a new home for Alliance staff that is separate from Seattle or Tacoma. Auburn, which straddles the two counties, would be a good mid-point between the two harbors.

In addition, we have been working to double the economic impact of the cruise industry to Washington State. Part of that strategy is to get visitors to stay longer, see more of the County and spend more money with local businesses. I would like to work with the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and other groups in the 31st to help create opportunities to increase the number of visitors to the 31st, whether it be to attend the Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games, stop off for lunch on the way to Mount Rainier or otherwise.

5. What are the three most critical issues you expect to encounter in the office you are seeking?

  1. Preserving industrial lands, particularly in north and south Seattle.
  2. Ensuring freight mobility from our seaport and airport to manufacturers and exporters located across our state.
  3. Training the next generation of maritime and industrial workers as the baby boomers age out of the workforce.

6. Please give us an example of when you had to a make a critical decision that, due to its impact on others, was difficult. Tell us why you made your decision and what, if any, actions you took to mitigate any negative results.

In 2014, when the Commission was looking to hire a new port executive, the global shipping industry was in turmoil and we were losing market share (and jobs) at our marine terminals. It was clear that, if we kept doing business as usual the Port would continue to decline. We decided to cast the net wide and look for someone who could bring new thinking to the Port, a change agent who could drive that change through a large, complex organization.

We hired Ted Fick, our first Port CEO from the private sector. He had an impressive resume: 17 years at Paccar followed up by heading a private truck component company in the Midwest. He said all the right things about having grown up in Tacoma and now wanting to come back to the Puget Sound and give back to his community through public service.

Ted’s initial results were excellent. He did drive change through the Port, shaking up an ossified bureaucracy and breaking down silos between divisions (the airport used to operate almost like a separate fiefdom, often ignoring commission policy on labor or small business issues). He hired the most talented executive team that I have seen at the Port, and one that was diverse in thinking and background – our seaport director is the first openly gay woman in the position and our airport director is originally from Jamaica.

Most importantly, he listened to the Commission. When I told him that labor was such a critical stakeholder that he needed to make his labor relations director a direct report (not buried three reporting levels down under the CFO as had been previously) he not only followed my advice, he hired David Freiboth, the head of the King County Labor Council and a forceful voice for labor, as his labor relations director.

However, as time went by, it became clear that Ted did not have the best personal judgment and was not reflecting values appropriate for a public agency director. In early 2014, he got a DUI. He later expensed the $6,000 cost of a port industry party at his house to the Port even though he had previously told me and my fellow commissioners that it was his party and he was paying for it himself. He included himself and the entire executive team in a retention bonus that the Commission approved for a demoralized rank and file staff (he and the executive team ultimately paid it back). And there were other issues.

Serving as Commission President last year, I was responsible for leading the CEO’s performance review. I met with my colleagues to get their feedback and determine whether we should give Ted a critical review and put him on a performance improvement plan or part ways. We ultimately decided the latter and Ted resigned.

We put in place as interim CEO David Soike, a 35 year Port professional and steady hand well-liked by Port staff. Starting the search for a new CEO we are doing something I have advocated for the last 12 years – changing the title from CEO to Executive Director to better reflect our values as a public agency.

7. What methods will you employ to communicate with your constituency on a regular basis?

I primarily use social media to communicate with constituents, both Facebook (Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton) and Twitter (jwcreighton3). The Port of Seattle has a strong presence on social media, as well as communicating with King County residents through regular email updates and notices.

8. What other information would you like us to consider?

I have been a strong, progressive voice during my time on the Port Commission. I am proud therefore to have the sole endorsements in Position 1 of the King County Labor Council and Washington Conservation Voters. I am also endorsed by many great progressive officeholders including Bob Ferguson, Cyrus Habib and Nancy Backus. A full list of my endorsements can be found on my website at www.johncreighton.org

I declare under penalty of perjury the foregoing is true and correct.

Signed at: Kirkland, WA


/s/ John Creighton

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