Two open seats on the Port of Tacoma Commission are the common denominator for Pierce County voters during a busy, dizzy general election.
Every community will have ballots crowded with assorted city or town council candidates, school board aspirants, and folks willing to serve their local fire, park, water or sewer district.
But the four people running for Port Commission are the only candidates who appear on all the ballots — more than a half million of ‘em -— in Pierce County’s Nov. 5 election.
That’s just one measure of the Port’s widespread local impact. The Port supports more than 42,000 direct and indirect jobs, fuels $3 billion in annual activity and encompasses more than 2,700 acres of land for marine cargo and industrial operations.
Now more than ever, the Port is expected to perform well not just as an employer and economic workhorse but also as an environmental steward and community partner. Leadership matters, and a strong leadership team needs a diversity of ideas and life experiences.
With that in mind, The News Tribune Editorial Board endorses Deanna Keller for Position 3 and Kristin Ang for Position 5.
As we noted before the August primary election, they are two very different candidates — Keller a steady insider, Ang a fiery outsider — but the Port could benefit from both their perspectives.
Keller, 63, has an eclectic background of public and private management experience. She’s been president of her family’s industrial-fabrication company on the Tideflats for 11 years. She was a public school principal for a dozen years. She’s also a military veteran who knows the value of working in harmony from her time in the U.S. Marine Band.
Lots of political candidates talk about expanding living-wage jobs and apprenticeship opportunities; at KelTech Plastics, Keller has done it.
The Gig Harbor resident calls herself a “fiscal conservative who understands public service.” Her involvement with the local Chamber and Economic Development Board aligns her with mainstream business voices.
Also running for Position 3 is Frank Boykin, 58, of University Place. The United Parcel Service executive has relevant experience in shipping and transportation logistics. Electing him would correct a historical disgrace: The Port Commission has had no African American, or any person of color, in its 101-year history.
But Boykin, while issuing a vague call for inclusiveness and community engagement, didn’t articulate for us a clear case why he’s the best candidate. Keller strikes us as the more effective champion for creating and protecting jobs.
Ang, 40, has potential to be a standout among a new generation of local leaders.
The Gig Harbor attorney opposes the LNG plant under construction at the Port, which sets her apart from the current commission and the other three candidates. Ang’s disdain for fossil-fuel projects is unshakable. But she would lend more to the dialogue than a contrarian view.
A Filipino American, she has lived, worked and studied in China and Hong Kong. She’s well versed in Pacific Rim trade. And she survived the proving ground of her first Port election campaign in 2016, when she won more than 48 percent of the vote.
Ang could certainly help refresh an elected body dominated by white males over age 60, but she’s careful not to make diversity the focus of her campaign.
Her opponent Dave Bryant, 69, is a more traditional candidate. The Lake Tapps resident sees the Port through the lens of a man who’s spent much of his life at sea. The former career Navy officer now works as a Boeing manager; his knowledge is wide ranging, from shipboard fueling systems to Port competitiveness.
A four-year Pierce County resident, Bryant has the shallowest local roots of anyone running for commissioner this year.
Our fingers are crossed that Ang, if elected, would force difficult conversations but still find room for compromise.
A leadership transition is imminent at the Port, as veteran commissioners Clare Petrich and Don Johnson will retire at the end of 2019. With them goes a combined 36 years of elected service.
We believe Keller and Ang, despite their striking differences, would be quality replacements on the five-member Port of Tacoma Commission.