Port of Tacoma selects Pierce County native as its new executive director

Eric Johnson speaks to a gathering of Port of Tacoma staff and invited guests at a reception for executive director finalists April 22, 2019.
Eric Johnson speaks to a gathering of Port of Tacoma staff and invited guests at a reception for executive director finalists April 22, 2019. Courtesy

The Port of Tacoma Commission on Wednesday voted to hire a ports advocate to become its new executive director.

Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association, was chosen after a final round of interviews and further discussion in executive session Tuesday.

“We are pleased to welcome Eric to the Port of Tacoma,” said Port Commissioner Clare Petrich, co-chair of the hiring committee, in a news release. “His background and experience will be tremendous assets to our organization as we grow its economic impacts across Pierce County. We’ve been particularly impressed by his history in merging environmental stewardship efforts with port business.”

After several rounds of screening and interviews, a search committee made up of two commissioners and port staff selected two finalists for the full commission to consider. Information on the candidates was shared and discussed April 11.

“I am very honored that the Port Commission has chosen me for this position,” said Johnson in the news release. “I am excited to come home and create jobs with them.”

Johnson, originally from Tacoma before working in Olympia on behalf of the state’s ports, had been in the running along with Todd Coleman, the executive director of the West Plains/Airport Area Public Development Authority in Spokane County. Coleman withdrew Monday after receiving a competing offer from the West Plains PDA to remain there.

Related: Search 2017 Port of Tacoma salaries

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The selection of Johnson allows John Wolfe to serve solely as CEO for the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which is the combined marketing force for the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. Previously, Wolfe had been doing double-duty also as CEO for the Port of Tacoma. Both Wolfe and Johnson will work at One Sitcum Plaza on the Tideflats.

According to the port, “NWSA activities account for 60 to 70 percent of total Port of Tacoma revenue. The remaining properties and revenue will be overseen by the new executive director position.”

As executive director, Johnson will be responsible for developing new opportunities for lines of business not licensed to the NWSA.

Johnson’s start date and other terms of his employment are to be negotiated.

“My top priorities coming into this position are to renew the Port’s relationship with the Puyallup Tribe, expand the Port’s industrial real estate opportunities and successfully navigate with our partners to a sustainable subarea plan,” said Johnson in the port’s release.