The Port mourns the passing of former Commissioner Jim Jorgensen and extends its deepest sympathies to his family and many friends throughout our community and beyond who were forever touched by his kindness, good-nature, gentle spirit and compassion for others.
Jorgensen was an influential figure in Whatcom County, leaving an enduring mark on the Port and the environment. Jorgensen retired from a successful 30-year career in Blaine teaching high school and middle school where he was twice named state science teacher of the year. Jorgensen also ran a salmon charter and marine sales business where his talent for turning strangers into friends over a shared passion for fishing served him well. Jorgensen was actively involved in many Blaine civic activities and was a key figure in turning a former landfill into Blaine Marine Park.
Jorgensen started his public service as Port Commissioner in 2004 during a time of great change in Whatcom County. Many of the traditional natural resource-based industries were going out of business and the Port was considering the acquisition of Georgia-Pacific’s former Pulp, Paper and Chemical Plant. The Port wanted to avoid a “Brownfields Syndrome” where historic contamination prevented the redevelopment of strategic waterfront properties and land was left vacant and underutilized for many, many years. The Port’s proposed property transaction was complicated by concerns about liability, funding, partnerships, public perception and many others. For Jorgensen, the decision was straightforward, it was the right thing to do for the environment. The Port acquired Georgia-Pacific’s property in January 2005.
“Jim Jorgensen had a positive and meaningful influence on Port staff, his fellow Port Commissioners, and the public” said Port Executive Director Rob Fix. “I had the honor of working with Jim for many years and admired and respected him for always making decisions in the best interest of our community without a personal or political agenda. He cared deeply for the environment and served on the Commission during a critical time when generational decisions were being made about how best to overcome a legacy of heavy industrial contamination. His love of learning and teaching made him a great leader and helped give the Port Commission and staff the courage to step forward and lead efforts to clean-up historic contamination, restore salmon habitat, rebuild our waterfront economy and improve public access to the water. Jim’s impact as a Port Commissioner will last forever.”
Jorgensen was elected to serve on the Port Commission three times providing leadership and direction on many important projects including:
- The acquisition, clean-up and redevelopment of Georgia-Pacific’s 137-acre former Pulp, Paper and Chemical Plant
- The $30 Million resurfacing of Bellingham International Airport’s runway
- The $38.6 million expansion of Bellingham International Airport
- The shoreline restoration at Marine Park
- The restoration of Squalicum Creek Estuary
- The development of Bellwether on the Bay
- Advancing the cleanup and redevelopment of Blaine Marine Industrial Area
Shortly after Jorgensen retired from the Port Commission in 2015, the Port renamed the Blaine End Pier as “Jorgensen Pier”.
In addition to his many accomplishments as a Port Commissioner, teacher, fisherman, businessman, civic leader, and family man, Jorgensen will long be remembered for caring deeply about the people who worked at the Port. He gave generously with his time (especially if it involved a fishing story) and made us all better people. Jim Jorgensen will be missed.