'Many people have asked for a more responsive Port; this is how to get there.'

Commissioner Joe Downing explains reasons for voters to add two commissioners to the Port Commission


There is an issue on the ballot next week that is little talked about: that of moving the Port of Olympia from three to five Commissioners. This could be because there is little perspective to base a decision upon. As one of the three Port Commissioners, I would like to add perspective to this issue.

A five-person Port Commission would bring three big improvements to the Port Commission, namely:  Additional representation, more continuity, and better decision-making.

  • Additional Representation: With five commissioners, the populace will get added representation: each commissioner will represent 60,000 people, not 100,000, in the county. Commissioners will come from five districts, not just three. 
  • More Continuity: many of the Port issues are multi-year in nature…. they take that long for either funding to be provided, or decisions to evolve. When you have an election where two of the three Commissioners are replaced (it happens), it destroys continuity and, in effect, moves the Port back to square one. The chance for bad decisions increases greatly during the first year when a majority of commissioners are new to the job.
  • Better Decision-making: Having five commissioners means that two of the five Commissioners can get together to have quiet discussion of an issue to formulate ideas, before then discussing and deciding on pathways at our Commission meetings. Finally, a five-person commission would allow for sub-committees to form in order to explore issues, and work effectively with Port staff.

For the Port, additional costs per year would average $145,000. This is a small price to pay when getting decisions wrong could cost millions. Many people have asked for a more responsive Port; this is how to get there.

Of all the forms of government in Thurston County, both the Port and the Thurston County have the smallest governing boards.

Thank you for voting “yes” to a five-person Port Commission on your November ballot.

-- Joe Downing, Olympia

Joe Downing has served as a Port of Olympia Commissioner since 2016. 


3 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • BobJacobs

    What would help even more would be for the Port to stop collecting property taxes that support almost entirely activities that aid only financially well-off people like airplane owners, boat owners, and major shippers. Port businesses should at least break even and pay all port costs.

    Bob Jacobs

    Wednesday, November 2, 2022 Report this

  • TonyW33

    Bob Jacobs nailed it. Learn to balance a budget and to present real financial reports first. Stop raising our taxes and manage the business as it was a business. Then we can revisit the addition of directors. Oh and then there is the E.D issue. Fix that too and come back to the voters and taxpayers with this initiative in a couple of years. The county commissioners are swamped while you only work for the taxpayers some of the time.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2022 Report this

  • Larry Dzieza

    "This is a small price to pay when getting decisions wrong could cost millions."

    Well Mr. Downing certainly has proven that he is fully capable of getting decisions wrong that cost us millions with a three member Board. So why not trust his decision making ability on this one too?

    The Port is a business that would be better if it ran like a government.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2022 Report this