Help wanted: WA state ferries chief

by: Deborah Horne Updated:

SEATTLE, Wash. —

The chance to run the nation's largest ferry system in the picturesque Pacific Northwest seems like a job a lot of people would love.

 And scores of people did apply. 

But when the list was narrowed to two, one of them, ferry operations director George Capaccio, dropped out.

The other, former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, wasn't deemed a proper fit. 

 So why is it so hard to find a new chief of the state's ferry?

"Salary is definitely a challenge," says state transportation spokesman Lars Erickson. 

The most the ferries chief can make now is $145,000.  Compare that to the chief of the privately run BC Ferries in Canada who earns nearly twice as much.

"We're almost at the point where the ferry system will be in the red in 2015 without new revenue," says State Representative Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island.

So Clibborn, chair of the House Transportation committee, says the state can't afford to pay the ferry chief more because it is likely ferry runs will have to be cut to keep the system afloat.

"So you're not going to bring in someone and give them a big salary and then immediately turn around and cut ferry runs," Clibborn said.  "And politically that isn't going to happen and the communities wouldn't support that."

Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson has decided to ask for a raise for the new ferry chief.

But it's a modest increase.

The new salary will be a little more than $150,000.