Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Port of Olympia Commissioners Appoint Michelle Morris

Above: Michelle Morris was appointed this evening to Port of Olympia Commissioner Position #3. She will serve for about five months. Morris is not running for election to the position and said in her application that her goal is to provide a smooth transition from the vacancy left by former commissioner Sue Gunn. She says she will continue Gunn's conversations about agriculture, transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

By Janine Unsoeld

Port of Olympia commissioners George Barner and Bill McGregor tonight appointed Michelle Morris to fill commissioner position #3, formerly held by Sue Gunn.

“Thank you very much…I’m honored,” said Morris, who was present at tonight's port meeting. The publicly noticed meeting was held tonight rather than a usual Monday evening due to scheduling difficulties.

Morris said she will be sworn in at the Thurston County’s Auditor’s Office tomorrow afternoon. She will hold the position from June 11 to November 24, when the general election is formally certified. Morris is not one of the applicants running for election to the position.

Outside the meeting room, as well wishers congratulated her, Morris said, “I’m thrilled that they expedited this process instead of letting it drag on. I’m really excited to get business moving forward…I have a lot of homework to do!”

Her first meeting is expected to be Monday, June 22, unless she can attend a port work session meeting on Thursday, June 18.

An executive session of the commissioners started at 4:00 p.m. tonight at which Commissioners Barner and McGregor discussed the applicant’s resumes, responses to questions, and qualifications.

Barner said he was very impressed with E.J. Zita’s application, responses to questions and interview, but said it would be inappropriate to choose someone who is committed to running for election to the position.

McGregor agreed, and after saying that he was impressed with the quality of each candidate, recommended Fred Finn to fill the position.

Barner disagreed. Calling former commissioner Sue Gunn an intelligent and bright woman, Barner said he felt sensitive to the issues that have been raised by the public, and said that the position ought to be filled by a woman.

“I’m seriously interested in affirming the actions of the voters of District #3 in electing Commissioner Gunn….The issue of diversity is real, and new to this board of commissioners, but one that was said loud and clear by the electorate when they elected her to this position….” said Barner, who then promptly made a motion to appoint Michelle Morris.

McGregor quickly agreed, and seconded Barner’s motion, saying he did not want to see the decision go to the Thurston County commissioners. 

Both welcomed Morris to the position, with Barner adding that he has served the last three years with Morris on Thurston County’s solid waste advisory committee and appreciates her thoughtfulness in that capacity. McGregor earlier noted her financial and small business experience as assets for filling the position.

George Sharp, Dick Pust, and Fred Finn were in attendance at tonight’s meeting, and quickly congratulated her on her appointment. 

Port of Olympia Commission meetings are held at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of each month. Work sessions are held 2:30 p.m. Thursday before the fourth Monday of each month. All meetings are held at Tumwater Town Center, 7241 Cleanwater Drive SW, Tumwater. 

For more information, go to

In other port news, a public meeting on the master planning process for development of its real estate in Tumwater will be held Thursday, June 11th, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., at the Comfort Inn, 1620 74th Avenue SW, Tumwater.

The master plan will guide future growth within the New Market Industrial Campus and Tumwater Town Center. Questions that will be discussed at the meeting: How the properties' physical and environmental characteristics will influence development and what unique economic opportunities the New Market Industrial Campus and Tumwater Town Center Port districts offer the Thurston region.

The two districts total over 500 acres which may be developed for commercial, industrial or other uses.

For past articles about the Port of Olympia, including the process to fill Position #3, go to Little Hollywood, and use the search button to type in key words.