Warren Aakervik at the Ballard Oil service dock. Photo by Shane Harms
Warren Aakervik is a calculating man. He is a community man. More importantly, he is a problem solver.
The Ballard News Tribune visited him at his family business, Ballard Oil, for coffee as the sun rose over the docks and explored Aakervik’s 70 years of community service and experience living in Ballard.
Aakervik is a busy man. He presently serves on the SDOT Freight Advisory Board, Manufacturing & Industrial Council Executive Board, Executive Board of Ballard/Interbay North End Manufacturing & Industrial Center, Board of Directors for Seattle Marine Business Coalition, Ballard Chamber of Commerce and Board of Directors for the Ballard Masonic Temple. The list goes on. Aakervik is also a private pilot.
“I’m really the laziest person you might meet in your life. I will take four hours to think about a project that will take 15 minutes. ... There’s a point to it. I don’t want to do it again, and I want to get it done as quick as I can the first time,” said Aakervik.
His experience trails even further. Aakervik was the President of Ballard District Council and served on the Seattle Fire Department Fire Code Advisory Board and the Board of Directors for Pacific Fishermen Inc.
Aakervik has been living in Seattle all his life, but moved to Ballard in 1956. In high school, he enjoyed mathematics and studied one year at the University of Washington.
“I mainly learned how to play baccarat in school. ... I wanted to study mathematics because I had studied everything from geometry to trigonometry in high school, but when I got there they said to forget everything I thought I knew. ... I just couldn’t. That’s like saying forget everything you’ve learned to get you this far in life, so I left. But that was okay because I knew what I wanted to do...”
Aakervik’s father, Bud Aakervik, came back from WWII in 1942 and became partners with Bob Stewart at Ballard Oil. Soon Aakervik become majority shareholder of the company and then asked his son to take over in 1986. Warren Aakervik was owner and president of Ballard Oil until 2012 and then he passed it on to his daughter, Debbie. He retired in 2013, but continues to oversee operations at Ballard Oil, having his second cup of coffee at 6 a.m. everyday.
Much like what he has been doing his entire life, Aakervik still devotes his time to volunteering and finding ways to help the community like donating time and machinery to hang the snowflake ornaments in 2002 and currently helping prepare salmon dinners at the Norwegian Commercial Club.
“I ask people what their favorite thing to do is. What do they get the most satisfaction from and they say this or that, but what I tell them is that my favorite thing to do is help other people,” said Aakervik.
Aakervik shared his concerns with the BNT on topics from maritime community to apodment construction and the perceived culture it reinforces.
“As Abe Lincoln said, you have the right to have anything you want as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others; and that’s what I believe, but the hardest thing for me is to balance the world by Warren and the world we live in today.”
Aakervik is concerned with a culture that seems to be only thinking with short term self interests. He explained that one such issue is the Burke-Gilman Trail, which he sees as a recreational endeavor infringing on the operations of a fragile economic main nerve: the maritime industry, which pays nearly $4 billion in state wages and generates $30 billion in revenues.
“I want more bikers on the road because it means less cars and fewer stops for trucks, however it just does not make sense to me to intersect bikers and trucks...we need to separate modes of transportation. I really do not want to see anyone get killed because of a truck hitting someone on the trail or a biker wearing headphones running into a truck.”
Aakervik believes the city and the public as a whole have not connected the total economic value the maritime industry brings to the region and the potential for major problems merging industrial equipment and bikers presents. He explained that Ballard Oil, one of two marine fuel providers in Ballard, services over 300 fishing boats of the Alaskan fishing fleet, which means a lot of coming and going for the big trucks.
“Seattle is the mecca of the entire maritime industry. What do we think is going to happen if that goes away or if it drastically slows down? The point is the community was built around that industry and we need to make sure it remains healthy.”
Aakervik sees many challenges facing Ballard and the community at large. Personally, Aakervik has faced challenges in his own life. In 2010 his grandson, Spenser Millard, was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 19.
“ I told the kids at the service that you’re going to do what your going to do, but its too bad that more youth don’t stop and think about things before they do them. ... What I can say is if you have been drinking, have breakfast before you get on the road. Why? Because it gives people time to maybe start to think about things and maybe they would decide not to drive.”
The day of Spenser’s accident, Aakervik said he drove by the accident site and did not know that Spenser had been a passenger in the car. He went to the office and made coffee and went to the shop to work on his airplane because it had an annual mechanical inspection coming up. Aakervik said that if the plane had not been in the shop that week, he would have probably flown to Sun River to go skiing with Spenser and Spenser's brother Brandon, like he usually did that time of year.
Despite his loss and the challenges the community faces, Aakervik remains optimistic and is ready to laugh and smile. In his retirement he plans to continue his service to the community and solving problems as "overseer" at Ballard Oil, but hopefully make a little room to go flying.
“The best part of flying is, I don’t think about Ballard Oil or anything else, because I’m busy thinking about saving the lives of the people in the airplane.”