Port of Tacoma Commission hires Eric Johnson as executive director

At today’s special meeting, the Port of Tacoma Commission approved Eric Johnson to serve as executive director of the Port of Tacoma. Johnson has served as the executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association since January 2009. John Wolfe will continue in his role as CEO of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a marine cargo operating partnership of the ports of Tacoma and Seattle.

“We are pleased to welcome Eric to the Port of Tacoma,” said Port Commissioner Clare Petrich, co-chair of the hiring committee. “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.”

When the NWSA was formed in 2015, Wolfe—then CEO of Port of Tacoma—assumed leadership of both the NWSA and Port. The dual role was set to divide into two positions within the first five years of the NWSA. Both leaders will be located on the Tacoma Tideflats at One Sitcum Plaza.

Of the Port of Tacoma’s approximately 2,650 acres, about 1,100 are licensed to the NWSA for international marine cargo operations. 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.

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

As executive director, Johnson will be responsible for developing and implementing new business and partnership opportunities for lines of business not licensed to the NWSA. He will be tasked with identifying economic development strategies, managing and creating opportunities for real estate holdings (both developed and undeveloped), helping to improve and manage transportation corridors within the port complex, and working with key stakeholders to ensure and promote environmental stewardship and sustainable growth.

“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.

The Port’s recruitment effort drew significant interest from across the country. After several rounds of screening and interviews, a search committee consisting of two commissioners and port staff selected two finalists for consideration by the full commission. Information on the candidates was shared and discussed at an April 11 commission meeting.

On April 22, the second candidate received a competing offer from his current employer in Spokane, and he withdrew his candidacy to accept their offer. Johnson then advanced for final consideration. He underwent final interviews yesterday with further discussion in executive session this morning. The final decision happened with a public vote in today’s meeting.

Johnson’s first day on the job and other terms of employment will now be negotiated. Read more about his background in the April 8 news release.