ELECTION ’13: Tacoma Weekly queries the candidates on the ballot for the general election in Novembe

// Bacon, Holdeman vie for Port of Tacoma Commission

With elections coming up on Nov. 6, Tacoma Weekly is getting a jump on it all with a brief question-and-answer among local candidates. Connie Bacon and Eric Holdeman are vying for a seat on the Port of Tacoma Commission. Here they answer questions about their views on Port issues.

Connie Bacon (incumbent)

Tacoma Weekly: Tell us about your view of the role the Port of Tacoma Commission plays in the community in terms of stewardship and economic development and how those roles can conflict as well as work together?

Connie Bacon: The Port is often referred to as the economic engine for Pierce County. That means we are engaged with the community to create jobs and to partner in community upgrades. We do that by serving on project groups and committees and lending our support both financially and personal engagement. I serve, for instance, as an Advisor at UWT, co-chair of a new outreach called Water Partners of Tacoma to create a hub here for environmental solutions, the Asia Pacific Cultural Center Board and other groups. Within these groups we work out differences as part of the process.

TW: What is/are the biggest challenge(s) facing the Port of Tacoma in the near future and what key decisions do you see the commission making concerning that future?

CB: The Port recently completed a 10-year strategic plan with specific goals and measurable outcomes to address competitiveness in the industry, which is the biggest challenge for the future. We have strategically and successfully come through the economic crisis and are strongly poised to compete. We have recently again received an A+ rating from Moody’s and Standard and Poor's showing our Port is in solid financial shape and a good investment. Key decisions the Commission will be called on to make regard how to invest our resources, financial, real estate, and staff, that will make our Port state of the art in the industry, thus able to attract new customers and keep current business.

The Commission must continue to incentivize our key staff and support delivery of the goals we have set for ourselves including maintaining great relationships with labor. We must be active in lobbying state and federal legislation that will both not impede our ability to compete (like the Harbor Maintenance Tax) and will enhance our ability to compete (like building Rt. 167) and continue our cooperative activities with the Port of Seattle on these and other issues like environmental regulation, as an example. But I believe the greatest task of the Commission is to understand the worldwide maritime industry and retain our individual strong personal relationships with industry decision-makers so we can make well-informed decisions that will affect the future success of our Port.

TW: What experience and perspectives do you bring to the commission and how do they match (or clash) with other members of the commission?

CB: The current makeup of the Commission is very collegial. We each bring different experience and expertise and each of us highly respects the others so we can freely discuss Port issues. My experience is based on many years of trade activity both as Exec. Dir. of the World Trade Center and 16 years of experience on the Commission. This experience, and the relationships I have built in the industry and the community, are key to influencing decision-makers to choose our Port for their business. My further government experience as Special Asst. to Gov. Gardner enables me to call upon my relationships at the state and federal level to promote our Port. As to perspectives, I believe in prudent and conservative financial policy, attention to our customers and careful but aggressive planning for the future.

TW: What else should voters know about you?

CB: Many voters know about me already through my leadership in the community for many years. They know that I have world-class experience and proven leadership to continue to lead the Port to continuing success in a challenging future.

TW: How can voters learn more about you and your political platform?

CB: Refer to my website at http://conniebacon4port.com and to the long list of leaders who are endorsing me.

Eric Holdeman

Tacoma Weekly: Tell us about your view of the role the Port of Tacoma Commission plays in the community in terms of stewardship and economic development and how those roles can conflict as well as work together?

Eric Holdeman: The primary purpose of the Port of Tacoma is to provide economic stimulus to the people and businesses of Pierce County. Our goal is to provide an environment and infrastructure that attract new business and create family wage jobs. In an increasingly competitive maritime world, we need to form new partnerships and renew old ones to compete with other East Coast and Gulf ports that the Panama Canal will open to the Asia trade. In doing the above, we must do so in an environmentally responsible manner. There must be a balance between growth and protecting our air and water.

TW: What is/are the biggest challenge(s) facing the Port of Tacoma in the near future and what key decisions do you see the commission making concerning that future?

EH: International competition is the new norm. Rather than being concerned about winning business from the Port of Seattle we need to be looking for ways to work together with our neighbors to the north. The Grand Alliance deal only brought $200,000 in increased revenue to the Port. Trading business between the two ports is only a race to the bottom. The real competition is coming from Canadian ports that are investing billions of dollars to modernize their infrastructure.

The $600 million debt that the Port currently is carrying is very worrisome. This is debt the people of Pierce County owe due to poor decision-making in trying to expand the port in ways that led to catastrophic failures. This includes the failed development of the NYK terminal and rail yard expansion at Maytown in Thurston County. This debt is keeping the port from being able to modernize its maritime infrastructure.

Our infrastructure to include cranes is some of the oldest on the West Coast, one crane is 35 years old. New cranes cost $10 million each. Throughout the entire Port area there are only two cranes that are of the most modern construction. In comparison, the Port of Savannah, GA has 16 super-post-Panamax cranes available to unload the supersized ships going into service now. 16,000 TEU ships are sailing now, 24,000 TEU ships are being built. The typical large ship calling at the Port today is 8,500 TEU. There is no capacity for these large ships of the future!

Additional rail infrastructure is needed. We are nearing the capacity for the Port and what the mainline railroads that service the Port can handle. Future growth will be constrained if this is not fixed. In comparison, today the Port of Prince Rupert in Canada is only using 25 percent of their rail capacity.

TW: What experience and perspectives do you bring to the commission and how do they match (or clash) with other members of the commission?

EH: I have a background, skills and experience that none of the other commissioners have. The Port is a Strategic Port supporting military deployments from Fort Lewis. My 20-year Army career as an infantry officer provides me with a strong background for this mission area that the Port has.

My 40 years of leadership and management experience with director level know-how, serving in complex geopolitical settings and living and working in foreign countries has prepared me well for the decision making environment of the commission.

I am a strong proponent of using technology, something not present on the commission.

TW: What else should voters know about you?

EH: I served as the Director of Security for the Port of Tacoma for four years. In that position I supervised 60 personnel, about 24 percent of the Port staff. During those four years I oversaw $56M in Port Security funding and projects that improved the security measures at the port, protecting the people of Tacoma and Pierce County.

I have a long history of building regional coalitions that cross jurisdictional boundaries and involve government, private business and nonprofit sectors. I strongly believe that there needs to be a stronger emphasis on safety and security at the Port.

TW: How can voters learn more about you and your political platform?

EH: My election website is at http://www.electericholdeman.org Additional information and links to all my electronic media are at: http://about.me/Eric_Holdeman. People can email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and voters can call me at (253) 848-5095.

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