After years at sea and in ‘port,’ it’s time to retire

Bremerton Port CEO Tim Thomson will retire Dec. 31 after 14 years with the port. - Leslie Kelly
Bremerton Port CEO Tim Thomson will retire Dec. 31 after 14 years with the port.
— image credit: Leslie Kelly

There was never any question in Tim Thomson’s mind. He knew he was going to grow up to become a naval aviator.

“My father was a naval aviator and he used to do loops over the lake where we lived,” Thomson said. “It was a given that that was what I was going to do.”

And after 28 years in the Navy and another 15 years in the private sector, most of those being at the Port of Bremerton, come Dec. 31, Thomson will retire.

He is currently the chief executive officer at the port, a position he has held for two-plus years. Prior to that, he was the real properties manager, the chief operating officer and the director of business development. He’s been with the port since 1999.

“The title kept changing, but really, I was in charge of marketing the port properties,” he said.

He is most proud of his work with tenants at the port’s Olympic View Industrial Park, he said.

“I’ve enjoyed working with them and helping them find ways for their businesses to grow,” he said. “When I came to the port, there were 360 jobs in the industrial park. Now there are more than 1,000.”

Thomson is quick to say that he isn’t taking sole credit for the the growth, but that it’s been a team effort on the part of all port management. He’s also pleased with the amount of infrastructure that been added in the industrial park.

“We’ve worked hard to develop the properties and the infrastructure to accommodate the needs of the private sector,” he said.

As a taxing entity, that’s the ports responsibility — to complete capital projects as a means to provide for private business development and job expansion, he said.

Thomson also takes pride that he was a part of the creation of the Bremerton Marina. The marina, opened in 2008, has received criticism because of its lack of tenants, until recently when a consultant doubled the occupancy rate at the marina.

“For all the good and bad, it was quite an undertaking,” he said. “It’s the biggest project we’ve done in the 100-year history of the port.”

Thomson also is pleased that the port has been able to complete the northeast campus which now has all sites pad-ready and makes them more attractive to potential tenants.

“It’s a real positive for the port because we are ready for the economic recovery,” he said. “It puts us in a great position to attack new businesses  to locate and build here.”

Probably the most difficult time for Thomson in his years at the port was in March of this year when he had to restructure the port’s operations to make it more cost effective.

“I’m sure that will be my legacy,” he said. “It was a painful experience, but it was the right thing for the port to do — to cut expenses.”

He said having to cut positions and knowing that that was affecting employees and their families was hard.

“I take no pride that it caused hardships for some families,” he said. “But the result was a significantly lower dependency on tax dollars to operate and maintain the port.”

As CEO at the port, he’s come across those who don’t really understand port operations, he said. People have asked him why they should support the port when they don’t have a plane or a boat.

“They ask me ‘What do I get out of the tax dollars I pay to the port?” he said. “I tell them that their tax dollars contribute to the economic development of the port district and that that may directly or indirectly affect them.”

It’s the overall positive economic impact to the local economy that matters, he said.

“They may not work in one of those jobs at the industrial park, but their neighbor might,” he said. “And they may be the person that just enjoys walking at one of our marinas, or enjoys one of the waterfront parks we operate.”

He added that there is a $230 million gross sales annually in Kitsap County from businesses operating in the port’s industrial park. And there is a $83 million impact from the airport operations.

Thomson said he will miss the variety of his job as CEO.

“The diversification of the projects,” he said. “One day I may be working on a project at the airport, the the next dealing with a marina or the railroad. It adds richness to the job.”

He’s also enjoyed the staff he’s worked with.

“In the Navy, we moved every two years and it was all new people,” he said. “This is the longest I’ve ever stayed in the same place and worked alongside the same people.”

Although he is a pilot, and has 885 carrier landings to his credit, he doesn’t plan to pilot a plane much in retirement. Instead, he’s going to travel, visit his children and grandchildren in Boise and San Francisco, and practice the guitar.

“When I left the Navy, I promised my wife, no planes and no boats,” he said, noting that when he does fly it’s either commercial, or piloting a plane he’s rented for the day. “I’m going to keep to that.”

He does plan to get into a kayak once in awhile and he’s an avid runner.

Thomson was commissioned as an officer in the Navy in 1971, after completing Navy ROTC and graduating from the University of Idaho. Most of his Navy career was spent on Whidbey Island,  however, he served in Japan, Coronado, Calif., and Pensacola, Fla. He was Commanding Officer of  Attack Squadron 52 at NAS Whidbey Island; and Commanding Officer of NAS Pensacola, Florida

In his last duty station for the Navy, hew worked for the Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific Fleet, San Diego, but was located in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard here in Bremerton.

After the Navy, he wanted to retire to the Pacific Northwest and took the job at the Port of Bremerton.

Retirement comes now, he said, so he can spend more time with his family, including his parents who are in their 90s and live in Florida.

“When I made the decision to retire, it was for my family,” he said. “As it’s getting closer, I’m beginning to get excited about having time to do  nothing. After 43 years of continuous employment, and I’m very grateful for that, I can say I’m happy to say I have no plans.”

The Port of Bremerton Commissioners will say farewell to Thomson at their meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Bremerton Airport. The public is invited to stop by.


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