After 14 years at helm, Port of Edmonds’ Bob McChesney weighs anchor

Bob McChesney at his desk in the Port of Edmonds administration building.

After a 40-year career in the port industry — the last 14 as Port of Edmonds executive director — Bob McChesney is closing his office door for the last time on Wednesday.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” he said. “The port plays a unique and valuable role in our community, and I’ve been fortunate to work with a group of smart, dedicated people. Our port commission is great, and together we’ve been able to accomplish some significant things that have benefited not just the port but the community as a whole.”

Much of that work has included overseeing major facility upgrades such as the public boat launch and new public restrooms; extensive improvements to the Harbor Square Business Park including the revitalization of the SR 104 and Dayton Street corner; the creation of the Sea Notes (formerly Sea Jazz) summer music program; the development of the new port administration and maintenance building now under construction; bringing new businesses to town ranging from Jacobsen Marine to Puget Sound Express Whale Watching to Freedom Boats and years of planning to replace the aging pedestrian “portwalk” and the underlying seawall. (Last year U.S. Rep. Rick Larson visited the port to learn more about its operations and plans for the future. Read about what he learned here)

Under McChesney’s leadership, the port has clarified and defined its four main business lines: operating the marina, commercial real estate, environmental protection and enhancement, and public access – and as the only public boating access in the highly populated 30-mile stretch between Seattle’s Shilshole Marina and the Port of Everett, the Port of Edmonds is a vital access point for those wanting to get out on the water.

A lifetime Puget Sound area resident, McChesney has always been surrounded by water, boats, and all things nautical.

He grew up in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and attended the University of Washington. Hired right out of college into the steamship industry, he gained first-hand knowledge of the operations of various ports around Puget Sound from Olympia to Bellingham to Port Angeles.

“But I wanted to learn more,” he confessed, “so I went back to the UW for graduate work in the School of Marine Affairs.”

He’d no sooner earned his master’s degree, than he was hired by the Port of Longview, where he stayed for three years.

“I liked Longview,” he recalled. “It’s a great community, a gritty, blue-collar, hard-working town.”

From there, he moved on to the Port of Everett where he worked for 12 years as director of property and development. A big focus during that time was reclaiming “brown fields,” abandoned industrial properties that had come under the jurisdiction of the port.

“When mills leave town they often leave properties in various stages of cleanup and contamination,” he explained. “This presents a host of social, political and environmental riddles to be resolved to get these brown fields cleaned up and returned to productive use. I found that work very interesting.”

After 12 years in Everett, the opportunity arose to apply as executive director for the Port of Port Angeles.

“The Port Angeles job was very competitive,” he recalls. “There were more than 70 applicants, but in the end I was the last man standing.”

Then in 2009, the Edmonds job came up, and Bob was selected.

“I’ve been happily employed here for 14 years,” he said with a smile. “Edmonds is different than many of the other ports on Puget Sound – we’re more of a boutique port rather than an industrial port. We don’t have any cargo operations, and don’t have wide expanses of developable property. Other ports like Tacoma, Seattle and Bellingham have lots of abandoned industrial property to work with, but here in Edmonds not so. We’ll never be bigger than we are now, and so are limited in what we can work with.”

Bob and DJ, his wife of 39 years, have lived in the same house in Richmond Beach for the past 25 years; they have no immediate plans to relocate.

While plans for the future are still somewhat open, the couple is initially looking forward to traveling and having adventures together.

“She can’t wait,” he added with a laugh. “Life is about becoming, and right now we’re focused on becoming retired.”

One thing he won’t do is play golf.

“I can hit any ball that’s already moving, and golf balls don’t do that,” he added with a laugh.

“But I know I’ll miss this place,” he concluded. “You don’t pour yourself into a job like this for 14 years without it becoming part of you. The most satisfying part of the job for me has been the chance to work with smart, dedicated people like our port commissioners. I’m sure I’ll be dropping in to see how the new seawall and portwalk projects unfold, visit the new administration building, and talk with the many friends and associates I’ve developed over the years.”

Taking McChesney’s place as executive director will be incumbent Port of Edmonds Commissioner Angela Harris.

— Story and photo by Larry Vogel


  1. Bob has always been available to discuss issues. He has served the community well and I wish him well.

  2. Have a great retirement.. we are hoping the next official keeps us safe….you did a great job!!

  3. Your commitment to the Port and our Community has been OUTSTANDING. I very much enjoyed working with you in the past and I wish you much health, happiness and success in your retirement and endeavors.

  4. Bob, I too enjoyed working with you. Edmonds and the Port were fortunate to have your leadership for 14 years.

  5. As an Edmonds city council member I was the city’s representative to the Port for four years. I participated in the selection process when Bob was hired. The last 14 years proved without any doubt that in Bob we made a great choice. Bob, thank you for the remarkable job that you’ve done and I hope that you and your wife have a wonderful retirement together.

  6. We wish you fair winds and following seas, Bob. You are leaving the Port a much better place than when you first arrived and have set the stage for its continued success in providing outstanding public waterfront access, business, and recreational experiences. Enjoy your retirement with DJ and family, and don’t be a stranger. The Port waterfront is even more fun when you’re not working so hard to make it even better. Thanks for culminating your great career at the Port of Edmonds. See you on the Portwalk.

  7. Ditto what commissioner Johnston says!
    Thanks for all your hard work and you will have to come to a commission meeting in the new Admin building!
    We know you will work hard at retirement:)

  8. During the last 14 years you have demonstrated what a public servant should be. Smart, knowledgeable, and loyal to the Port and the community, you have developed a strong organization that will serve your relief and the Port Commission into the future. Enjoy your retirement. May the wind be at your back.

  9. Well done Bob, I have always enjoyed working with you over the years and watching all the great things you have accomplished for the Port of Edmonds and Port of Everett you have served so well. Enjoy your wonderful retirement, you certainly have earned it.

  10. Bob has been an exemplary public servant serving the community with distinction. More importantly, as he retires, he leaves a legacy of prudent management, ethical standards, and a solid base that will allow the Port to address its future requirements. We wish him well and thank him for his service to our community.

  11. Happy Trails or Sails to you Bob!

    It’s been great working with you and so much change occured since you took the helm.

    Thank you for your leadership, honesty and vision!


  12. Best Wishes Bob, and thank you. You created both a strong organization and an inspiring legacy of good government: I’ve learned a lot from watching your leadership and interaction with the Port Commissioners.

    Have a wonderful and well-deserved retirement. Job well done!

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