Port director’s salary on board agenda

Incoming executive has requested a raise over Paulson's pay

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



The Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners meets in open session at 9:30 a.m. today at the port's office, 3103 N.W. Lower River Road in Vancouver.

The Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners meets in open session at 9:30 a.m. today at the port’s office, 3103 N.W. Lower River Road in Vancouver.

The Port of Vancouver Board of Commissioners is expected to decide the salary of the port’s new executive director, Todd Coleman, today.

Coleman, the port’s former deputy executive director, took over its top administrative job after Larry Paulson retired from the post at the end of April.

Coleman is asking commissioners to set his annual base salary at $186,524, according to Theresa Wagner, the port’s communications chief.

The port’s three-member Board of Commissioners held a public workshop June 26 to discuss the matter. Commissioner Brian Wolfe said the board is reviewing a lot of data, including information on comparable salaries.

What’s important, he said, is that “we are paying Todd a reasonable salary, one that is within the probable range based on our own revenues and enough that he won’t be leaving us next week.”

The commission’s decision on Coleman’s salary arrives at a busy time for the port, a landlord to industrial tenants and handler of everything from wind energy components to Subaru automobiles.

The largest capital project in the port’s 100-year history — the $275 million expansion of rail tracks known as the West Vancouver Freight Access project — also is under way.

‘The right team’

The port’s executive director oversees a budget of about $85 million, signs contracts and represents the port — which counts China, Japan, Europe and South America among its trading partners — on international business.

The port’s three elected commissioners review the position annually, and the person who has the job serves at the will of the commissioners. It’s the only port management position the commissioners are responsible for filling. The executive director makes all the other staff decisions.

“He’s the guy we depend on to make sure we’ve got the right team in place,” Wolfe said.

Coleman’s requested base salary amount is nearly $17,000 more than his current salary of $169,567, which is what he received when he was the port’s deputy executive director.

It’s also nearly $16,000 more than Paulson’s annual salary — $170,568 — before he retired. Coleman has submitted a packet of information to commissioners along with his requested salary level. That information includes a salary survey by the American Association of Port Authorities, among other data.

Wagner said the salary Coleman recommended for himself is “reflective of where the Port of Vancouver” — the third-largest in Washington — “sits in the hierarchy of ports.”

“It’s below what Seattle and Tacoma pay but above Longview,” Wagner added.

In comparison

Port of Longview Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren, who’s retiring at the end of this year, receives $135,612 annually. The Longview port has hired his replacement, Geir Kalhagen, and says it’s using a salary range of $130,000 to $170,000 to negotiate Kalhagen’s final pay, according to the Longview Daily News.

Port of Tacoma Executive Director John Wolfe receives $220,000 annually. The Seattle port’s CEO, Tay Yoshitani, got a pay raise in 2011 to a base salary of $366,825, according to the Seattle Times.

The Port of Portland’s executive director, Bill Wyatt, receives an annual salary of $346,565. The Port of Portland manages both cargo terminals and Portland International Airport.

Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Steven Webb draws a salary of $191,508. Clark Public Utilities General Manager Wayne Nelson receives a salary of $225,000. In 2011, Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes was paid a salary of $161,499.

In the private sector, pay for CEOs is often considerably higher. At the end of last year, Richard Roman, CEO of Vancouver-based Northwest Pipe Co., was making $1.17 million in salary and bonuses. Bruce Cazenave, CEO of Nautilus, Inc., the Vancouver-based maker of fitness equipment, was receiving $450,000 in salary and bonuses at the end of 2011.

In addition to setting Coleman’s salary, port commissioners are expected to establish his car allowance. It would be $500 per month, Wagner said, the same amount Paulson received before he retired. Commissioners are expected to decide Coleman’s deferred compensation package at a later date.

Before joining the port, Coleman was a partner in an engineering consulting firm, Coleman & Davido Engineering Consultants, in Estacada, Ore. He also held positions in Oregon companies URS Inc. and Parametrix Inc.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.