Nortier selected to head Island Transit


Michael Nortier has been selected to become the new permanent executive director of Island Transit.

The board of directors made its decision Wednesday afternoon, following interviews with the candidates that morning.

Nortier, most recently commanding officer of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, just retired from the U.S. Navy after 26 years of service. He was one of three finalists for the position.

At a meet and greet held at Island Transit headquarters Tuesday evening, Nortier said rebuilding public trust was one of the most important issues facing the county transportation system.

“The board and the staff have done a good job and have made progress over the last year and a half in rebuilding public trust,” said Nortier. “But there are a number of ways to improve that. It won’t happen overnight, but if we communicate in a manner that’s open, if we are good stewards of our finances, that will go a long way towards that goal.”

In an email from Island Transit board members, they said the selection process was difficult.

“It was a very difficult selection and all three candidates were extremely well qualified. The Board extends their gratitude to all the candidates,” read the email.

The email also stated that the board has requested legal counsel begin immediate negotiations for employment.

Nortier takes over for Kenneth Graska, interim executive director, who was brought in following the departure of longtime director Martha Rose.

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns was one of Nortier’s supporters for the position.

“He has a great ability to manage and lead an organization of this size, with a large staff, that’s controlled by a board of directors, I expect he will be able to bring them together,” said Severns. “He has local, recent experience, he’s involved in the community and that’s important.”

“Everywhere you go, Nortier is connected with the community,” agreed the mayor’s wife, Rhonda.

Since leaving the Navy just over a month ago, Nortier said he has been busy looking for a position in which he can continue his public service.

“I’ve been asking myself what can I do that is still of value that serves the community,” said Nortier.

Other finalists included Christopher Phillips, former executive officer of NAS Whidbey, and Rob LaFontaine, the director of Twin Transit in Lewis County.




  1. R. J. Farmer on

    I wonder if any one has considered a conflict of interest in the selection considering that one of the three individuals that were being considered had extensive experience in the field of local transportation. I wonder what it was that did not qualify that individual for the position vice a relative newcomer.

    • Brian Bradford on

      Mr LaFontaine had no prior transit experience before Twin Transit. He was hired because the Twin Transit board could not field any other qualified candidate, and staffing levels were not adequate to bridge what had been the sudden retirement/death of their previous GM.

      I think picking Mr. Nortier was well-advised. And now Island Transit can sort itself out and re-align itself to better serve the riding public, while not wasting money on ferry shuttles.

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