Former Simpson executive running for third Port of Tacoma term

Port of Tacoma Commission President Don Johnson said Wednesday he’s launching a re-election campaign for a third term on the five-member governing board.

Johnson, who began his first four-year term in 2008 and who was re-elected in 2011, is the retired vice president and general manager of one of the Tacoma Tideflats’ larger employers, the Simpson Tacoma Kraft paper mill. The Simpson mill was subsequently bought by Georgia-based Rock-Tenn Co.

“There’s a lot still to do at the port,” Johnson said. “I enjoy the work on the port commission. These are very dynamic times.”

The Port of Tacoma is in the process of forming an alliance with its formerly biggest rival, the Port of Seattle, to attract new shipping business to Puget Sound. The two ports, which battled each other for decades over shipping line customers, last year decided to unite their marketing efforts and cargo operations to increase their competitive profile in the battle for business with ports in Canada, the East Coast and Southern California.

The two port commissions are now negotiating the specifics of the alliance, which they expect to put in place by August.

Johnson is a veteran civic leader with multiple leadership roles in his résumé. He currently serves as chairman of the Goodwill Industries board. He is a former chairman of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and of the University of Washington Tacoma Business School Advisory Board.

Johnson has been campaign chairman for the United Way of Pierce County and chairman of its board. He once before served as president of the port commission. He is a member and past chairman of the MultiCare Health Foundation.

No rivals have yet announced their candidacy.

Two of the five members of the commission will see their terms expire at the end of this year. Besides Johnson, Tacoma business woman Clare Petrich will end her term on the commission in December unless she successfully seeks re-election. Petrich was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Petrich was first elected to the commission in 1995.

If Johnson is re-elected, his salary plus maximum per diem payments for attending meetings could rise from the present $18,535 to nearly $35,000. The commission members in 2013 voted themselves a salary increase. That increase was effective only for new commissioners or for commission members who were re-elected.