Elected amid a divisive battle over a huge proposed oil terminal, new Port of Vancouver Commissioner Eric LaBrant took his oath of office in a scene of camaraderie Monday afternoon.
Commissioner Brian Wolfe, in his capacity as a notary public, swore in LaBrant as nearly 100 people looked on at the former Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, located on the port-owned Terminal One site.
“For anybody wondering: We do have the ability to work together,” LaBrant said after the cheers and applause settled.
The new commissioner talked about the importance of keeping ports public and the “sense of excitement” picking up around port politics.
He also urged his supporters to “get outside their comfort zone” and fight against polarization and division.
“Some of the strongest ideas and solutions we have come through disagreement, rationally and civilly,” LaBrant said.
Wolfe said he’s looking forward to working with LaBrant.
“Some think he’s a one-issue commissioner,” Wolfe said not far from a woman wearing a “no oil terminal” button. “He understands there’s more to the port than oil.”
LaBrant, 35, is a Vancouver native and president of the Fruit Valley Neighborhood Association. He works at a freight company in Portland. LaBrant was elected on an anti-terminal message, a project that the port commission approved in 2013 and is now under review by the state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.
Wolfe and Commissioner Jerry Oliver, along with outgoing Commissioner Nancy Baker, voted to approve a lease for the terminal with Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, which operate under a partnership as Vancouver Energy. While critics have repeatedly asked the port commission to terminate its contract for the terminal, LaBrant’s election does not signal an end to majority support for the project on the board.
LaBrant topped Lisa Ross in November’s election after finishing second in a field of seven in the August primary. He takes the seat of Baker, who is retiring after serving two six-year terms.