Gary Nelson announces retirement as Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director

On Tuesday, Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director Gary Nelson announced that he will be retiring.

Nelson announced his impending retirement at the Port of Grays Harbor Commissioner meeting.

“All good things must come to an end,” stated Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director Gary Nelson.  “I have always been taught to leave a place better than you found it and I would like to think that is the case both at the Port and the community as a whole.  I look forward to watching the Port continue to grow in the coming years with several exciting projects on the horizon.” 

According to the port, Nelson was hired as Executive Director in April 2000. At that time the Port had only 21 vessel calls, handled 85,000 metric tons of cargo, and had an operating budget of $5.2 million.  

By the end of 2023 the Port says that they are projected to have 100 vessel calls and handle more than 3 million metric tons of cargo with an operating budget of nearly $40 million. 

They add that during his time as Executive Director the Port has seen more than $275 million in private investment throughout its facilities.

“The Port of Grays Harbor has achieved historic levels of growth and success thanks to Mr. Nelson’s vision and leadership,” shared Port of Grays Harbor Commission President Tom Quigg.  “For the last 23 years, Gary has laid the foundation for the Port and its customers to continue to thrive for decades to come.  Just as importantly, he has brought together and cultivated a talented staff that will ensure progress continues.  Our heart-felt thanks to Mr. Nelson for his years of service, leadership, and dedication. We wish him and his family all the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

During the time Nelson has been leading, the Port has gone through many changes, including the completion of Deeper Draft within Grays Harbor,  a diversification of the marine terminal assets, and the addition and expansion of the Port to include the Satsop Business Park and Friends Landing.  

Nelson served as Chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities from 2019 to 2020, Chaired the Washington Public Ports Association Legislative Committee and served on the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association Executive Board.  

Nelson is scheduled to retire as of March 31, 2024, although he stated that he would be willing to stay on to help transition the new Executive Director into the role.

The Port Commission will be considering leadership succession options and consider whether to recruit a new Executive Director using an outside firm, recruit a new Executive Director using Port staff or promote an Executive Director from within the Port’s existing leadership.  

More information on the Port of Grays Harbor’s facilities and operations is available at or