Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director Nelson to Retire

Gary Nelson. Photo: Port of Grays Harbor.

After nearly 24 years on the job, Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director Gary Nelson has said that he’ll retire March 31, 2024.

Nelson, whose pending retirement was announced by the port Nov. 14, was hired as executive director in April 2000, when the port had only 21 vessel calls handling 85,000 metric tons of cargo with an operating budget of just $5.2 million.

More than two decades later, Grays Harbor is projected to have 100 vessel calls and handle more than 3 million metric tons of cargo with an operating budget of nearly $40 million by the end of 2023.

During Nelson’s tenure, the port has seen more than $275 million in private investment throughout its facilities. In addition, Grays Harbor has diversified to include operations at the Satsop Business Park.

He served as Chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities from 2019 to 2020, Chaired the Washington Public Ports Association Legislative Committee and served on the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association Executive Board.

He also oversaw the critical completion of Deeper Draft, the deepening of the Grays Harbor Navigation Channel to its congressionally authorized depth.

“All good things must come to an end,” Nelson said. “I have always been taught to leave a place better than you found it and I would like to think that is the case both at the port and the community as a whole. I look forward to watching the port continue to grow in the coming years with several exciting projects on the horizon.”

The Grays Harbor Port Commission was expected to consider leadership succession options at an upcoming Commission meeting, including whether to recruit a new executive director using an outside firm, using port staff or promoting from within.

By Mark Edward Nero