Distler not reappointed to the State Transportation Commission

Bob Distler, former chairman of the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee, was not reappointed to the State Transportation Commission.

His six-year term expired June 30. He had applied for reappointment, but received a letter from Gov. Christine Gregoire on Nov. 3 that his service was over. As of Nov. 12, his position was vacant, according to the commission website. The position is one of two awaiting appointment.

"As your membership on the Transportation Commission comes to an end, I would like to thank and commend you for your dedicated service," Gregoire wrote in the letter. "I truly appreciate the considerable time and energy you devoted to your work and hope that it has been a rewarding experience for you. Again, thank you for your service to the citizens of our state ..."

Reema Griffith, executive director of the State Transportation Commission, wrote in an e-mail of Distler on Nov. 5, "Commissioner Distler made a tremendous contribution to both the Commission and the State of Washington. His expertise and passion for the state’s transportation system was matched with his thoughtful analysis of its needs and the consequences of decisions. He challenged status quo thinking and pushed his colleagues and state leaders to look beyond today and work towards finding long-term solutions — even if those solutions entailed short-term pain. His critical thinking, foresight and thought provoking commentary will be missed."

Distler was a long-time voice of the islands on ferry transportation issues, and worked to improve the time it takes for ferries to arrive and depart in the San Juan Islands — called "dwell time."

While the reasons for his exit from the commission were not given, he received a warning letter by state ferry officials after he humiliated a state ferry worker while he waited to board the 8:25 p.m. ferry May 14. Distler apologized to the employee two days later at the terminal supervisor's recommendation. Distler admitted he got "short-tempered" with the ferry worker over how the 8:10 and 8:25 p.m. ferries were being loaded, and added, "I didn't mean anything personal about it."

Marta Coursey, communications director for the state Department of Transportation, said at the time that incident was not Distler's first. She said the warning letter from WSF was "characteristic of what we communicate if there has been an ongoing problem."

Distler was appointed to the state commission by Gregoire in 2005. According to his commission biography, his career has been in transportation management and he has been a consultant for airlines, cruise lines and railroads.

Transportation commissioners serve six-year terms and are paid $12.50 per hour, not to exceed $100 per day, while on commission business, according to the commission office. Commissioners are also entitled to a non-employee ferry pass each, for use on commission-related travel.

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