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Next WSF boss may be from Kitsap

The Washington State Department of Transportation is expected to conduct a national search to replace retiring Washington State Ferries CEO W. Michael Anderson, but a Bremerton resident may already have the inside track for the position.

“I have been very up-front about my interest,” said WSF Director Traci Brewer-Rogstad, “although I know there will be a competition for the job in the next few months.”

Brewer-Rogstad, who has worked with Anderson for 10 years, has received his public endorsement.”

Anderson has worked for WSF for 34 years, beginning as a ticket taker. He currently earns $141,924 per year.

After his retirement, he expects to explore opportunities in the marine transportation industry, according to a press release.

He has given a 90-day notice, and the final replacement decision will be made by newly appointed Secretary of Transportation, Paula Hammond, who said, “We’re poised to make some major decisions about ferries, and we have much work ahead. Fortunately, Mike has set us on the right course."

Brewer-Rogstad said she expects to continue Anderson’s course whether or not she is in the top spot, with the first priority to secure funding.

“The system has a math problem,” she said. “Ever since the loss of money brought about by I-695, there have been a number of efforts to cut costs and services. We need to take a good picture of the system and work with the Legislature very closely to develop a long-term plan.”

Brewer-Rogstad said management of WSF requires the coordination of several interlocking aspects.

“The ferry system is a broad melding of different services,” she said. “We move boats back and forth, but there are food services, wireless and connection to the highways. The effort to balance competing needs is an ongoing effort.”

Brewer-Rogstad is not only a WSF employee, but a user, commuting daily on the Bremerton run “except for the days that I need to go to Olympia.”

“I like Traci,” said Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang, a former member of the Bremerton Ferry Advisory Committee. “She’s very knowledgeable and has a good command of the system.”

Chang added that Brewer-Rogstad shared one of Anderson’s most important traits — compassion.

“I was impressed my Mike’s breadth of knowledge, but he also had a sense of kindness,” Chang said. “He was a good communicator and was aware that he had to deliver a message that people didn’t want to hear.”

North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer said the new WSF CEO would need to listen to the public and the local ferry commissions in order to develop a service plan and meet passenger needs.

“Someone will have to take the message to the legislature,” Bauer said. “There as been a recent ridership fall-off, which is connected to the increase in fares.”

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