Empowering Community Engagement with the Port of Olympia’s Citizens Advisory Committee


Whether classroom, family, group, team or company, everyone benefits from open communication, transparency, shared goals and excitement for the future. This is especially important with large organizations, in both scale and size, like the Port of Olympia. They work around the clock and often behind the scenes to build a stronger Thurston County for everyone. But they can’t do it alone.

The Port operates downtown Olympia’s marine terminal, Swantown Marina and Boatworks, Olympia Regional Airport and New Market Industrial Campus, Lacey Commerce Business Center and assorted holdings of businesses, restaurants and destination sites. It relies on the Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee (POCAC) for background reports, policy recommendations, project recommendations and advice to the Executive Director.

aerial view of boats in the docks at Port of Olympia
The Port of Olympia’s Citizens Advisory Committee works to advise, support, research and provide support for the Port’s many vital services.Photo courtesy: Port of Olympia

Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee Builds, Supports and Develops a Strong Thurston County

Camille St. Onge is director of strategic initiatives and commission affairs. She is also the ex-officio member of Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee. “When I joined the Port team,” says St. Onge, “this role stood out to me as an exciting opportunity to forge deeper connections with our community and involve them directly in our endeavors. I firmly believe that community engagement is pivotal for robust governance, and working alongside this dedicated group of community representatives has been immensely rewarding.”

She explains that POCAC is made up of 17 community members, a staff-appointed ex-officio member and staff coordinator. All Thurston County residents are invited to apply and represent the five county districts for a maximum of two, three-year terms.

St. Onge has appreciated how advisory committees play a crucial role beyond offering advice. “They contribute to strategic planning, risk assessment and overall governance effectiveness,” she adds. “Their input directly impacts key business decisions and helps the Commission set the course for the organization’s future success.”

“By having an advisory committee in place, we ensure that community members have a direct line to elected officials,” St. Onge continues. “It serves as a platform for constructive dialogue, where diverse perspectives can be shared, and concerns addressed collaboratively. This inclusive approach fosters a deeper understanding of issues and enriches the decision-making process for the commission.”

view of a large vessel on the Sound with Mount Rainier in the background
With the downtown Marine terminal, Olympia Regional Airport, New Market Industrial Campus and destinations like the Farmer’s Market and Hands on Children’s Museum, Port of Olympia’s Citizens Advisory Committee and the Port work for Thurston county families. Photo courtesy: Port of Olympia

A Skilled Cross-Section of Thurston County’s Finest Helps The Port of Olympia Serve You Better

The newly elected Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee Chair is Joel Hansen, but this isn’t his first session with the group. Involved since 2019, he’s excited for 2024’s newly rebuilt, post-COVID future. Hansen says that the current POCAC team are talented and experienced, representing people from the trades, environmental sciences, engineering, unions, lobbyists and more. “It’s a true embarrassment of riches,” he adds,  “a great cross-section of incredible, thoughtful people.”

“It’s exciting to be able to be part of rediscovering who we are and who we want to be,” says Hansen, “the possibilities are endless.” Which is good as many of the commission members and several Port commissioners are brand new to the team.

“There will be some growing pains, of course,” says Hansen, “but with the leadership that I believe we have, our momentum is going to carry us forward into a renaissance for the Port and how it can serve the community.”

Port of Olympia podium with a booth behind it with photos of the Port and a sign that says 'Swantown Marina & Boatworks Port of Olympia'
The public is welcomed to the Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee meetings or consider volunteering to join the team. Because working together, everyone benefits. Photo courtesy: Port of Olympia

Join the Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee Team Today

Port of Olympia Citizens Advisory Committee gathers feedback, takes direction from the elected commissioners, and serves as a conduit between the community and the commission, says Hansen. And he welcomes the public to participate via their monthly public meetings. All comments, whether in-person or submitted beforehand, are taken into consideration when moving forward.

POCAC projects over the years have looked at broadband initiatives, climate mitigation, community solar installations, dog parks, food trucks, EV charging stations and passenger ferries. Monthly meetings take place each third Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Percival Plaza’s Olympics Room. This is located at 626 Columbia Street, Suite 1-B. Or volunteer to be part of POCAC’s team by filling out the online application.

“I strongly believe in the significance of advisory committees as vehicles for community participation and collaborative problem-solving,” says St. Onge. “They provide voters with a meaningful opportunity to contribute to governance processes and shape the future of their communities.”

Do your part to shape the future by joining POCAC or contribute valuable insight to their ongoing efforts. Because Thurston County’s residents, visitors, business owners and families all benefit from shared experience, expertise and hope for the future. Learn more at the Port of Olympia website.


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