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Port of Bremerton director announces retirement

In a surprise announcement on Dec. 3, Port of Bremerton Executive Director Dick Brandenburg announced his retirement.

Brandenburg, who cited age and a sense of job completion as his primary reasons for leaving, will step down from the post effective Dec. 31. However, Brandenburg has chosen to take the rest of the month off to celebrate Christmas with his family. His last day was Dec. 7.

“Five and a half years is plenty to be involved,” Brandenburg said. “I think it’s time to let someone else have a turn.”

Brandenburg, who lives in Seattle and has maintained a separate weekday residence in Bremerton for the duration of his tenure at the port, plans to stay only minimally involved at the port for the rest of his term. He said he’s looking forward to re-involving himself in his family, now that doesn’t have to spend five days a week away from home.

“I want to enjoy other things — grandchildren, my wife,” Brandenburg said.

Although Brandenburg’s retirement announcement took many by surprise, Brandenburg said there were no underlying causes for the suddenness of the decision. He said the timing is very appropriate — it is the end of the year, the port’s projects have reached the level at which they have their own impetus and his upcoming schedule called for him to be out of the port offices most of the time anyway.

“I woke up one day, and said: ‘I’ve accomplished all the goals I wanted to accomplish while director,’ ” Brandenburg said. “I had the moment, and I just decided to do it. I’m not always conventional in what I do.”

Chairwoman Mary Ann Huntington said the port commissioners had lately been mentally preparing for Brandenburg’s retirement, even though he hadn’t talked a lot about it previously. The federal program within which the port works allows employees to become eligible for full retirement benefits after five years. Huntington said Brandenburg hit the five-year mark over the summer, and the commissioners thought it likely he might want to retire soon after.

“Dick’s at the age he can pretty much do what he wants,” said Commissioner Bill Mahan. “I’m going to miss him.”

The port does not have anyone lined up for Brandenburg’s job yet. Because the executive director position carries with it so much responsibility, port officials said they plan to be very thorough and deliberate in their search for a replacement.

“I don’t think we’re going to rush into anything,” Mahan said.

Huntington also said the commissioners don’t plan on tackling the issue until well after the holidays are over.

Deputy Executive Director Ken Attebery has been appointed to fill in for Brandenburg on an interim basis, and will be handling Brandenburg’s responsibilities in addition to his own.

Attebery has served as the executive director before — both on a permanent and temporary level. The last time was in 1996, before Brandenburg was hired.

“I feel (filling in) is the right thing to do,” Attebery said.

Attebery wouldn’t comment on whether or not he was interested in becoming the permanent executive director. However, Huntington said the commissioners would likely be evaluating Attebery’s performance in the role after a few months as a possible precursor to considering him as a permanent successor to Brandenburg.

Huntington said the port tries to hire in-house as much as possible and, failing that, would prefer to hire someone from within the community.

“None of us believe in going outside of the area,” she said.

Brandenburg said he has full confidence in the port staff’s ability to manage without him, and added that one of his proudest accomplishments over the years was the superior staff he succeeded in hiring.

“I have such a terrific staff, they may not even notice I’m gone,” he joked.

The port commissioners said they credit Brandenburg with vastly increasing the port’s public exposure. They also praised his commercial know-how which helped the port expand economically.

Brandenburg plans to go back to his former profession — commercial land development — at least on a part-time basis.

“I can’t imagine getting up and having nothing to do,” he said.

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