A change at the Port: Angela Harris is the new executive director
Last updated 4/6/2023 at 7:22am
There's a lot going on at the Port of Edmonds, and one of the biggest is a change at the top. Last week, the Port of Edmonds Commission unanimously selected incumbent Commissioner Angela Harris as the Port of Edmonds' next executive director.
On May 1, she will take over from incumbent Bob McChesney, retiring at the end of May after a 40-year career as a public ports manager, culminating in 14 years as the Port of Edmonds' executive director.
Harris will oversee the Port's activities as well as a new administrative and maintenance building at 471 Admiral Way now being constructed. The current administrative building will be demolished; plans call for a pedestrian plaza alongside a new portwalk.
Between the street and the BNSF tracks, the new 12,000-square-foot building is the first step in the longer project of preparing to replace the seawall that commissioners say will reach functional obsolescence in about five years.
As the Beacon reported last July, because it's not possible to replace the seawall without access from dry land, the existing building is in the way of this critical infrastructure upgrade. It is also older and more vulnerable to earthquake damage than other nearby buildings and needs to be demolished.
The commission has taken this as an opportunity to upgrade the Port's maintenance facilities and add public amenities.
In contrast to the existing administrative building's two maintenance bays, the new building will have three bays, one with large doors for lifts and two for other maintenance vehicles.
The maintenance shop will also include electric vehicle charging stations. The Port has already placed orders for electric trucks and plans to transition to an electric Travelift hoist for boat handling, with a full electric vehicle fleet buildout in 2023 or 2024.
While the Port will occupy most of the building and grounds, there will also be 3,500 square feet of rentable commercial space on the ground floor facing Admiral Way. Plans allow up to three retail shops ranging from 545 to 745 square feet.
Upstairs, Port staff will use most of the office space, but 750 square feet will be available for rent. The offices will look out over the marsh or across Admiral Way toward the marina.
Harris has served as a Port commissioner since 2018. She has been instrumental in establishing the Port's environmental plan and implementing a program to eliminate the use
of toxic chemicals, as well as contributing to financial strategy and long-range vision development.
She currently serves on the Port's Environmental and Legislative committees and is the Port's representative to the Washington Public Ports Association's Environmental Committee.
Harris brings business and senior management expertise to the Port, having run her own management consulting firm before starting a career at Microsoft in 2005.
She currently serves as director of Program Management Office for Device Partner Sales.
Upon McChesney's announcement to retire earlier this year, Harris announced her intention to apply for the position. More than 40 applicants were screened by the Selection Committee.
The list was reduced to five applicants, who were then interviewed by the commission (with Harris being recused) during two public meetings.
"Commissioner Harris has long demonstrated a love for the Port and the Edmonds-Woodway community," said Commissioner Steve Johnston, president and chair of the selection committee.
"Her vision, impressive service as a Port commissioner, and proven leadership record at the Port and as a senior corporate manager at Microsoft made her the standout candidate in a pool of outstanding applicants.
"While we wish Bob the very best in his well-deserved retirement, the commission and staff are excited to work with Angela in her new position as executive director."
Harris will lead a Port staff of 27 who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Port of Edmonds Marina and the Harbor Square Business Complex, as well as other major projects focused on community and economic benefit, shoreline access, environmental stewardship, and infrastructure maintenance.
A major focus for Harris over the next few years will be securing funding for major infrastructure projects, including restoration of the north marina seawall and Port Walk that provide essential public access to the waterfront.
The Port of Edmonds operates a marina and various commercial properties in downtown Edmonds. The Port provides the only public boating access in the highly populated 30-mile stretch between Seattle's Shilshole Bay and the Port of Everett.
The mission of the Port of Edmonds is to promote economic development by operating in a fiscally sound, environmentally responsible manner, all while ensuring quality service to customers and providing a vibrant environment for the Edmonds-Woodway community.
The Port is governed by a five-member board of commissioners. The commissioners are elected by the voters of the Port District for four-year terms.
You may wonder why you can't vote for Port commissioners even if you actually live in city limits.
The Port district boundaries were established when the Port was created in 1948 and the City of Edmonds was smaller. Since then, the city has grown through annexations while the Port district has not. So the Port and city are not contiguous. You have to live inside the Port district to vote for Port commissioners.
The Port's voting district includes the City of Edmonds west of 92nd Avenue West, roughly from Olympic View Drive in the north to the county line in the south, and the town of Woodway.
Could boundaries change?
"It would be difficult to expand the Port district boundaries simply because to do so we would be asking citizens and voters to be annexed into a junior taxing district without a defined benefit or value proposition that would persuade them to pay more taxes," McChesney told the Beacon in 2021."It would be a ballot measure. We couldn't do it without a vote. It's counterintuitive to expect non-Port residents to vote themselves into the Port district and pay more taxes. It has never been done."