Former Bellevue mayor Grant Degginger says the Port of Seattle is at the starting point of a number of transformational capital projects, and he believes his experience will help steer those efforts.

He enters the Position 2 commission race as one of seven contenders for the seat Courtney Gregoire is stepping away from at the end of the year.

Degginger spent seven years on the Bellevue Planning Commission, and 12 years on the city council, where his peers tapped him to serve as mayor in 2006.

He decided against running for re-election to the council in 2012 in order to focus on his law practice and family, and is now president of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, a reform Jewish congregation with locations in Capitol Hill and Bellevue, where he still resides.

Degginger highlights his work pushing for replacement of the State Route 520 Bridge and bringing light rail to the Eastside among his accomplishments while on the Bellevue City Council.

“Working to create partnerships is what I’ve done for a long time with major infrastructure.”

The Port of Seattle provides infrastructure critical to maintaining a healthy regional economy, he said, which includes its marine terminals and Sea-Tac International Airport.

Degginger wants to work on improving the customer experience at the airport.

“Anyone who uses the airport says the lines are too long, there are not enough services available,” he said.

He’s concerned about the port’s airport master plan, which calls for adding more gates, but also needs to address overcrowding on the departure and arrival decks, he said.

“The customer experience there is not a good one,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it, we have to address it.”

The state Legislature passed a bill this past session, signed by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this month, that will form an airport commission to assess whether another regional airport should be created. That bill was supported by the Port of Seattle Commission and Washington Ports Association. With Sea-Tac expected to reach maximum capacity by 2045, it’s something that needs to be considered, Degginger said, and the Port of Seattle needs to be part of that ongoing conversation.

Following his tenure in city government, Degginger was appointed to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission by former Gov. Chris Gregoire. The Position 2 candidate said he wants to see more transparency and accountability at the Port of Seattle.

“That means you get to tell the good news, but you also get to say, ‘Here are what the challenges are and here’s what we’re doing to address them.”

The Port has a $1 billion capital budget for 2019 — $3.1 billion in its 5-year capital spending plan — and is injecting $500 million into its maritime facilities.

A tax levy applied to the Port’s King County jurisdiction increased this year by 3 percent, meaning the average homeowner will pay about $70.20 this year, up from $68.80 in 2018. The levy will increase by 3 percent each year during the capital campaign. The levy was held at around $72 million for the past decade. This year it is projected to increase to $74 million.

Degginger said he thinks the investments are necessary, but the public process should have been more thorough and transparent when it came to the budget and tax process.

“As a percentage of the port’s budget, it’s very small,” he said, “but it does some things that are very important.”

The port and City of Seattle have a partnership to address infrastructure improvements along freight mobility corridors. Degginger said the Move Seattle Levy included a number of promised projects, including replacing the Magnolia Bridge, that never took shape. What role the port could play in assisting with that project is worth discussing, he said.

There are around 20,000 maritime industry jobs in the region and a workforce shortage. The Port of Seattle already supports local maritime and aeronautics academies here, but Degginger said he sees an opportunity to expand those partnerships with a greater focus on fairness and equity. He also wants to use the port’s own race and social justice initiative to craft more vendor contracts with small, minority- and women-owned businesses.

Mounting trade wars being waged by the federal government are concerning for the Port of Seattle, Degginger said. He cites a 15 percent drop in grain commodity sales at the port last year.

While promoting trade remains an important role for the port, tariffs and policy changes make tourism and cruise terminals more important than ever, Degginger said.

“These cruise ships are like little cities,” he said. “They need a lot of power.”

The Position 2 candidate points to the Port of Seattle’s shore power project at Pier 66 as a good step to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cruise ships, and he said the port needs to continue its environmental sustainability efforts by setting achievable targets.

Challenger Preeti Shridhar pushed for the port to work with airline and aircraft manufacturers to move toward biofuels for planes during her commission run in 2017. Degginger said he likes the concept, but further study is needed to ensure biofuels are safe and efficient.

Degginger will face off against six other challengers for the Position 2 seat during the Aug. 6 primary.

Find out more at GrantForPort.com.