Anacortes Port's executive director placed on paid leave - Salish Current
October 22, 2023
Anacortes Port’s executive director placed on paid leave
Richard Arlin Walker

Port of Anacortes Executive Director Dan Worra was placed on administrative leave last week; Operations Director John Dumas was named acting director. Worra, a retired Navy commander, was guest speaker at the 2021 Memorial Day ceremony at Chandler’s Square Retirement Community in Anacortes. (Richard Arlin Walker photo)

October 22, 2023
Anacortes Port’s executive director placed on paid leave
Richard Arlin Walker

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The Anacortes Port Commission voted 4-0 with one abstention Oct. 19 to place Executive Director Dan Worra on paid administrative leave. 

The vote came near the end of the regular meeting, with Worra present, three days after the commission met in executive session to discuss Worra’s performance. 

Operations Director John Dumas is serving as interim director.

Port officials were tight-lipped about the events leading to the vote. Port Commission President Bonnie Bowers answered all questions with “It’s an ongoing personnel issue and I cannot comment.” Commissioner Kathy Pittis referred all questions to Bowers. Messages were left Oct. 21 at numbers registered to commissioners Jon Ronngren, who made the motion to place Worra on administrative leave; and Shawn Ottenbreit, who seconded the motion. 

The Salish Current called Worra for comment on his port cell phone Oct. 21; a programmed message stated he was “not accepting calls at this time.” The Current also left a message at a cell phone number registered to Worra’s wife. 

Commissioner Jon Petrich abstained from voting, saying he thought the action was too hasty. “I thought we should deliberate at least once more before making that kind of motion,” he said.

After the public comment period ended and before the meeting adjourned, Ronngren made a motion to place Worra on paid administrative leave immediately, that his electronic access to district resources be shut down, that he not be authorized to act on the port’s behalf, and that all communications from Worra go through Port Attorney Holly Stafford “until the commission makes a final decision on his continued employment with the port.”

Bowers, Ottenbreit, Pittis and Ronngren voted yes. The commission and Worra then went into executive session. 

Bowers said Oct. 21 she expects more information to come out “in the next week or so.” 

Port’s accomplishments under Worra

Worra is the 15th executive director in the Port’s 97-year history. 

During his tenure, the Port completed several environmental cleanups and economic revitalization projects on the Anacortes waterfront. The Port owns and operates the Marine Terminal, Cap Sante Marina, Anacortes Airport and Seafarers Memorial Park, and leases properties in Anacortes and on March Point. 

The Washington State Ferries terminal is located on land leased from the port. Other high-visibility port tenants include Dakota Creek Industries, Marine Supply and Hardware, Anthony’s at Cap Sante Marina, and the Northwest Career and Technical Academy Marine Technology Campus.

The Port of Anacortes has completed more than $60 million in environmental cleanups over the past 12 years, leveraging its partnership with the state Department of Ecology; money from the Model Toxics Control Act, which is funded by a tax on hazardous materials brought into the state; and funds from the liable party’s insurance carrier, which sometimes required sleuthing by Port staff to track down the companies that issued policies on polluters that have since ceased to exist. 

Worra pointed to an economically thriving waterfront — as well as eelgrass and forage fish inhabiting nearshore areas once polluted with wood waste and other contaminants — as high points of the Port’s work.

Worra ran up against public opposition to proposals to return the Transit Shed to maritime-only use — removing it as a public events venue — and building a new events center at Cap Sante Marina. And in 2022, owners of yacht brokerages and charters expressed frustration with a growing waiting list for slips — a waiting list that was costing them their ability to transfer their slip assignments as before.

Worra joined the Port as executive director in 2015 shortly after retiring from the Navy after 24 years. According to his LinkedIn profile and his bio on the Port website, Worra served as a Navy flight instructor and maintenance officer, accumulated more than 2,100 EA-6B Prowler flight hours, supervised flight operations on the carrier USS Enterprise, and last served as operations officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

During his Navy career, Worra also served as a budget analyst in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and served one year as the senior adviser to the Minister of the Interior of Afghanistan, according to his LinkedIn profile.

— Reported by Richard Arlin Walker

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