Friday, December 21, 2018

Gibboney New Port of Olympia Executive Director

Above: Port of Olympia executive director candidate Sam Gibboney spoke at a public forum on Thursday. Gibboney was chosen by port commissioners as the Port of Olympia’s new executive director on Friday.

Rainbow Ceramics contract scheduled to expire in July 2019

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Port of Olympia commissioners unanimously chose Sam Gibboney as the port’s new executive director on Friday.

Commissioners held final interviews and deliberated for several hours in executive session before making their final selection among three final candidates.

Gibboney, of Friday Harbor, uses she/her pronouns. A civil engineer, she has served as executive director of the Port of Port Townsend for two years.

Prior to her position there, she worked for San Juan County in a variety of capacities including director of environmental resources and deputy director of public works.  

As a private consultant of her own company from 2000 - 2013, she provided strategic planning, construction project management, and land use and environmental permitting services to public agencies and non-profits. 

Her list of clients includes National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Sanctuary Programs, land trusts, counties, and conservancy organizations.

Early in her career, she was a Superfund environmental restoration manager at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, supervising a $9.8 million annual budget. There, she negotiated the first record of decision for a Superfund program in Alaska.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from San Diego University in 1990 and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington in 2009.

Her community service includes board president of the Port Townsend Food Co-op from 2010 to 2013. She is also a current member of the Port Townsend Rotary.

In her application for the executive position, Gibboney emphasized her 25 years of experience in working for and providing services to local and state government and non-profit organizations.

“I would bring a record of leadership in sustainable economic development balanced with sound environmental stewardship and community involvement,” she wrote.

Above: Port of Olympia Commissioner E.J. Zita chats with community member Kevin Partlow during a break in port executive director candidate interviews on Thursday.

On Thursday, the public had a chance to meet and interview the finalists at the Hilton Garden Inn in Olympia. All three port commissioners were in the audience.

The finalists were Gibboney, Dan Stahl, chief operating officer for the Port of Longview, and Geir-Eilif Kalhagen, director of Northern California and Pacific Northwest Metro Ports based in Long Beach, California.

Community member Denis Langhans attended the meeting and questioned each candidate about the port’s high ratio of tax levy to operating revenues. 

Contacted after Gibboney was chosen, Langhans said that of the three candidates, she was the one he preferred.

“I think that she has a broader view than the others. I think that she may be able to think outside the box, and not stay stuck in the present culture of non-accountability,” he said.

“For every dollar the port takes in, the taxpayers have to subsidize with 54 cents. This is much higher than other middle to large ports who average under 20 percent. 

A comparison was made at yesterdays meeting to Anacortes which has the same four business units and is slightly larger than the Port of Olympia. The tax levy for Anacortes is about $650,000 whereas the Port of Olympia’s tax levy is ten times larger,” he said.

Prior to the announcement on Friday, port commission board president E.J. Zita came out of executive session three times in one and a half hours to explain to those gathered for the public meeting that deliberations were still in progress.

Finally, their deliberations over, Zita began the meeting by saying it was a new beginning for the Port of Olympia.

“Thank you all for your patience. The Port of Olympia commission took a long time to evaluate our finalists because we had such strong candidates. We have spent today reviewing them in light of what the Port needs most right now. We need a strong and experienced leader who can help us assess our strengths and challenges, plot a good course forward, and have a prosperous voyage. 

“This ship, the Port of Olympia, needs a captain who can work well with the commission to carry out wise decisions – and who can also weigh input from crew – that means Port staff and our diverse community in Thurston County….

We’re confident that Sam Gibboney is the right person for the job of executive director, and we welcome her aboard at the Port of Olympia,” she said.

Following the departure of Ed Galligan earlier this year, Karras Consulting assisted the commissioners in the search for a new executive director.

According to Dennis Karras, the ports search process recruited a total of 39 candidates. The commissioners interviewed 25 of them. Overall, the search drew 27 candidates from in-state and 12 from out-of-state. Twenty-two of the candidates had port experience, and 17 had other experience.

There were a total of four women who applied for the position. In the top ten, 20 percent were people of color, Karras told Little Hollywood after the meeting.

In 2019, the Port of Olympia will face continued scrutiny of its financial sustainability and a contract involving controversial cargo. 

The ports contract with Rainbow Ceramics to accept and transfer ceramic proppants is scheduled to expire in July 2019. 

There are 125 bags and 10 rail cars of proppants remaining on port property, said port staff on Friday. 

As the Port approaches its 100 year anniversary, it is also working on a community visioning process called Vision 2050.

Gibboney will start work on January 22, 2019 and be paid $175,000 a year.

For more information about the Port of Olympia, Vision 2050, Rainbow Ceramics, ceramic proppants, rail blockades and protests, go to Little Hollywood at and type key words into the search button.

Above: Bags of ceramic proppants sit at the Port of Olympia on Friday.