Management shake-up at Washington State Ferries

Last fall, when I wrote November’s cover story about Washington State Ferries, I interviewed Larry Seaquist, a state legislator from Gig Harbor. Seaquist and another legislator, Norma Smith, had written a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee about design problems with the new Olympic-class ferries and had also expressed concern about “the continuing management issues with WSF.” When they wrote that letter, Capt. George Capacci was the acting director of the state ferry service. Now, Lynne Griffith is the permanent director and Capacci is one of several former executives who have to compete for newly defined positions. Others are Marta Coursey, chief communications officer, and Jean Baker, deputy chief for finance and administration.

I’m sure that Rep. Seaquist is happy to see this shake-up. He’s retired Navy (and the last captain of the battleship Iowa) with strong beliefs about leadership and accountability. “The problem is bad management at the ferry system,” he told me. “Everybody sees that.”

After several months gathering information by riding the boats, visiting the terminals and talking with everyone from captains to crews, labor leaders to business leaders, commuters to tourists, Griffith is making her moves. And it looks like the governor and Lynn Peterson, the state’s secretary of transportation, are giving Griffith the latitude to do the job her way. Perhaps she’s being given enough rope to hang herself, or perhaps it’s enough line to lash the system back together. Time will tell.

And as a lagniappe on Mardi Gras, here’s a link to a cool black-and-white photo of a tug and barge in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Be sure and click on the magnifying button inside the photo to see it enlarged. The photo is part of the answer to a question submitted to The New York Times about tug operations. The same article also features a photo of the “big armchairs” that used to grace Grand Central Station.

Happy Mardi Gras.

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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