Port of Kingston introduces new leadership for passenger ferry

Port of Kingston Commissioner Pete DeBoer (left) chats with new SoundRunner Operations Manager Ken Brazeau Tuesday outside the port office. - Tad Sooter/Staff Photo
Port of Kingston Commissioner Pete DeBoer (left) chats with new SoundRunner Operations Manager Ken Brazeau Tuesday outside the port office.
— image credit: Tad Sooter/Staff Photo

KINGSTON — Kingston's SoundRunner passenger ferry will get a fresh start May 31. Despite the service's stormy debut last fall, newly hired General Manager Meisha Rouser sees only blue skies ahead.

"I don't see any challenges, other than time," Rouser said. "I don't see anything that could trip us up."

Port of Kingston commissioners introduced Rouser as the new manager for SoundRunner Tuesday, along with new operations manager and captain Ken Brazeau. Both are Kingston residents.

Port Commission Chair Pete DeBoer said the commission wanted leaders with a grasp of the needs of commuters and life in Kitsap.

"We need to have people who understand the culture of Kingston," he said.

The Port of Kingston launched SoundRunner in October 2010, but suspended service in November following a month of bad weather, mechanical breakdowns and logistical problems. The port commission worked with a volunteer advisory committee to plan the relaunch of the service, and recently announced new fares and a new schedule. Commissioners interviewed managerial candidates in April.

Rouser jumped at the chance to lead a project she says is important to the future of North Kitsap.

"I feel very privileged to be able to take this on," Rouser said.

Rouser moved to Kingston with her family from the San Francisco Bay area in 2003. Her background is in business development, management and marketing. She worked as a program manager for technology companies, including MCI and Bechtel. She is the founder of and a broker for the Watermark Group, a luxury real estate company, and works as a business consultant.

Rouser is the third manager hired for the project. She will be paid a $70,000 salary.

Rouser said she'll spend much of her time this spring spreading the word about the relaunch of the service.

"This is a partnership with the community," she said. "We need the riders, we need the community to come together.

There are still logistical issues to iron out before the May 31 launch.

Rouser said the port is still researching the best way to reach customers with timely service alerts, a problem that frustrated riders last fall. The port may use a combination of text messaging, email, Facebook and other social media, she said.

Overall, Rouser said, SoundRunner needs to build a record of dependability.

"We have a long-term plan in place," she said. "We need to show that we're going to be reliable."

While Rouser brings a business background to SoundRunner, Brazeau joins the service with deep maritime experience.

The fourth-generation Kitsap resident worked for 32 years with Washington State Ferries and retired as captain of the Puyallup in 2008. He'll oversee the port's two ferries — the Spirit of Kingston and Kingston Express — and a pool of part-time crew members. Brazeau will also serve as the primary SoundRunner captain. He'll earn a $26 hourly wage.

Brazeau said he wants to create a personable atmosphere aboard the passenger ferry.

"We're going to be shaking hands, everyone will be able to talk to us," he said. "Right from the get go that's the impression I want to make on the crew."

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