With the sudden resignation of its CEO, the Port of Seattle needs strong leadership sooner rather than later.

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FOR more than 100 years, the Port of Seattle has been a vital part of our region’s economic development and cultural growth. People and goods from around the world enter — and exit — our region through airport and seaport facilities, creating jobs and business opportunities for everyone from new immigrants to CEOs, and generating millions of dollars in local and state taxes.

With Port CEO Ted Fick’s sudden resignation on Feb. 1, this major regional asset is missing strong leadership at the helm. The port commission should act quickly to find the right person. If there were ever a time when the port needed strong management, it is now.

Throughout the past century, there were port managers who stepped up and made courageous and visionary decisions — investing millions of dollars in container-handling facilities, promoting the idea of double-stacking containers on train cars before it had been widely accepted, building the finest recreational boat marina in the Pacific Northwest at Shilshole Bay, and building satellite passenger terminals at the international airport to accommodate predicted growth.

The port’s airport and seaport facilities, together with Tacoma’s seaport facilities, are important engines driving the state’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state are supported by international trade activities that depend on the ports.

Today, the port faces huge challenges.

More than $2 billion is being invested to modernize and expand Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — the principal commercial airport for the state. It is crucial that the project be effectively managed.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance, a joint venture of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, is just getting off the ground. It faces huge challenges in the hypercompetitive and changing ocean container shipping business.

Myriad issues face the port that will require complicated negotiations this year with local and state government officials, organized labor, business leaders and neighbors — the uplands at Pier 90/91, the rebuilding of Alaskan Way, the NBA arena issue, the demolition of the Highway 99 viaduct, the Lander Street crossing, airport noise, the future of Terminal 46 and the rebuilding of the Colman Dock ferry terminal among them.

The port commission also needs to restore public confidence in its leadership.

In this environment, legislators are already considering drastic measures that would change how the port is governed.

Port commissioners don’t have the luxury of conducting a yearlong process to install a new executive director or CEO. They need to move forward quickly to appoint someone with proven abilities, respect in the community, and the management and leadership skills to quickly restore public confidence and take on the challenges that lie immediately ahead.