Friday Harbor Port Commission off to a humorous start to 2010

Friday Harbor Port Executive Director Marilyn O
Friday Harbor Port Executive Director Marilyn O'Connor administers the oath of office to Commissioner Greg Hertel, Jan. 13 at Ernie's Cafe. The event was punctuated with humor.
— image credit: Richard Walker

The Friday Harbor Port Commission meeting could have been a segment of “Late Night” with Conan, Dave or Jay, Jan. 13 in Ernie’s Café.

First, reelected Port Commissioner Greg Hertel was asked if that was a new Hawaiian shirt he was wearing to his swearing-in.

“It’s not new. I just washed it,” he replied. (Ba-doom-doom-ching!)

During the oath of office, Port District Director Marilyn O’Connor got tongue-tied and asked Hertel if he would “digitally” administer his responsibilities as a commissioner. (Hertel corrected her and said “diligently.”)

At the end of his oath, Hertel made the Vulcan salute and said, “Live long and prosper.”

And then after the commission elected Barbara Marrett its president for 2010, a rainbow bloomed in the background. Was that because Marrett was the new president, or because Mike Ahrenius is no longer president?

“It’s because Greg isn’t president,” Marrett joked. (Ba-doom-doom-ching!)

Hertel was elected to a fourth six-year term Nov. 3, receiving 2,025 to former school board member Sharon Kivisto’s 1,292. Port commissioners serve six-year terms and receive up to $11,040 a year and full medical benefits.

Hertel is a retired Friday Harbor High School teacher and track coach, a former commercial fisherman, and a licensed boat captain. He earned a bachelor of science in geology from Portland State University and a master’s in natural sciences from Western Washington University. He and his wife, Lunnette, live in the Wold Road area of the island, where they raised two sons.

During his tenure as a commissioner, the port district built Skagit Valley College San Juan Center, leased land to San Juan County Fire District 3 for the main fire station on Mullis Street, purchased San Juan Marina and rebuilt it as Spring Street Landing, leased land to the Animal Protection Society for an animal shelter, installed a boat launch at Jackson's Beach, installed ADA-accessible ramps on the main dock at Friday Harbor Marina, and developed a traffic turnaround at the end of Front Street to improve the movement of traffic.

During his last term, Hertel was elected to the San Juan County Board of Freeholders, which wrote the county charter adopted by voters in 2005. He shared the honor of Journal Citizen of the Year with the other freeholders. The next year, he ran unsuccessfully for county auditor.

Also during his last term, Hertel spearheaded efforts to establish regularly scheduled passenger ferry service between Friday Harbor and Bellingham, as a transportation alternative to state ferry service between Friday Harbor and Anacortes. But the effort died when it was determined to be too costly.

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