Eron Berg, the city supervisor and attorney for Sedro-Woolley, has been selected as the new executive director of the Port of Port Townsend.
The three-member Port Commission selected Berg, 45, after discussions in an executive session on Jan. 22. This followed an extensive interview process in which four finalists met with stakeholders, port employees and the public, as well as a private interview with commissioners in another executive session on Jan. 15.
“This was a very tough decision to make,” said Port Commission Chair Pete Hanke. “We had four great finalists. Each brought clear strengths to the job. But we feel Eron has the right mix of skills and experience to lead the port through its next phase. We’re excited to work with him.”
Other finalists were Andy Haub, until recently the Water Resources director for the City of Olympia; Washington State Patrol Captain Travis Matheson; and Anthony Warfield, facilities manager for the Port of Tacoma.
Berg is expected to start at the Port in April, pending contract negotiations, and work alongside current executive director Jim Pivarnik until Pivarnik retires in early summer.
According to Pivarnik, the commission authorized him to offer Berg an annual salary of $155,000, but this has not yet been finalized.
Berg has a history of life on the water. He and his family arrived in La Conner by sailboat when he was in second grade, where he lived for most of his life.
“My parents bought a marine store in La Conner, so I grew up in the back of a marine chandlery,” Berg said. “From a young age I spent a lot of time on the water and around the marine trades.”
Berg and his family even lived for five years on a sloop in La Conner. It’s Port Townsend’s closeness to the water that drew Berg to search for a job in town.
“I have lots of fond memories from childhood of sailing to Port Townsend, and later in life taking the ferry over for day trips,” he said. “My wife and I have been enamored with Port Townsend for many, many years.”
Since 2007, Berg has been the City Supervisor and City Attorney of Sedro-Woolley, with a population of 12,000. There, he has reported to an elected mayor and is responsible both for day-to-day operations and legal guidance. The city has a staff of 90 and an annual budget of $38 million.
Berg says his experience leading capital projects in Sedro-Woolley has prepared him for dealing with the backlog of infrastructure projects that the port has to deal with in the coming years.
Most recently, he has been project lead on a $10 million library building project.
“The challenge is getting comfortable with the scope of the need,” he said. “But also making sure that the solutions are accepted by the community and the stakeholders and then building partnerships to make these things happen.”
The port has a laundry list of capital projects, such as the Point Hudson jetty, which is 80 years old and disintegrating. While Berg says he still has a lot to learn about marine projects, he hopes to build partnerships with the city, the county, and community organizations, while also leveraging outside support for the port’s infrastructure replacement needs.
But Berg said one of his main goals is to help facilitate the success of businesses in the marine trades industry.
“Working with people who work with their hands and make things for a living is part of Sedro-Woolley’s heritage,” he said. “My work is a step removed from that. It’s supporting those businesses and the work they do. I see the role of the port as helping create the environment for the marine trades to continue to succeed in the future.”
Beyond working as city supervisor for Sedro-Woolley, Berg is also an elected commissioner of the three-member Skagit Public Utility District, which supplies water to 65,000 residents and businesses. For four years starting in 1999, he also served as the elected mayor of the town of La Conner.
He has worked with the Port of Skagit on several projects including infrastructure, planning, permitting and sustaining the Swinomish Channel.
He hopes to bring some of this knowledge to his work at the port.
“While there is a $30 million backlog of projects, it’s also important not to lose sight of what’s next,” he said, giving the example of how the Port of Skagit has recently invested in supporting not only the marine trades, but the agriculture industry as well.
Before his government service, Berg was an attorney with Cascade Law Center. He holds a law degree from the University of Washington and a Master of Science in psychology from Western Washington University.
He said the Port of Port Townsend job is his “dream job.”
Berg and his wife have five children, so he doesn’t do as much sailing as he used to, but he still enjoys spending time at the beach with his kids. Several years ago, he and his wife, Shasta Berg, bought a piece of property at North Beach where he hopes to eventually build a home, he said.
Until then, he will be spending the weeks in Port Townsend and commuting home on the weekends. He and his family plan to move to Port Townsend permanently this summer, once the school year ends.