Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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Port seeks a CEO to mend partnerships

Consultant lays out stakeholders’ wish lists

By , Columbian Business Reporter

The next Port of Vancouver CEO, commissioners were told at their Tuesday meeting, may need to come from another planet to meet the community’s demands for the job.

“Will Superman or Superwoman please come forward?” asked Patrick Jones of Seattle-based Jones Strategic Consulting.

Jones, who recommended Todd Coleman to be executive director five years ago, was tapped to help focus on “who is needed next” in the wake of Coleman’s departure May 19.

Julianna Marler, the port’s top finance official, holds the role on an interim basis.

Given the divisive oil terminal proposal dominating the port’s image, Jones said, a lot rides on the next CEO.

“I suggest, in the context of the controversy that is now clouding and confusing the conversation about the port, I believe whoever is appointed is going to have to reestablish and reconnect and repartner with some of the most important elements in the community,” he said.

Jones reported to commissioners and staff Tuesday on interviews with a broad set of stakeholders.

“In the past five years, the Port of Vancouver has grown significantly by any measure,” he said. “Five years ago, I did not have any conversations that came close to evoking the kinds of reactions I have run into in this process, that is, deep concerns from some people on what is happening at the port.”

Most of those concerns center around the proposed oil-by-rail terminal, proposed three years ago by Vancouver Energy and championed by the port. That project remains mired in state permitting through the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council.

“The community is divided. I’m not telling you commissioners anything you don’t already know,” Jones said, adding the port will need “not a status quo manager.”

Next steps

Commissioners briefly discussed how to proceed — Jones recommended either mounting a national search with a search firm or keeping an in-house or regional focus.

“Last time you were here, you told us who to hire — can’t you just do that again?” Commissioner Brian Wolfe joked.

Commissioner Jerry Oliver said he would sit down with the port’s human resources director to mull options. He recommended staff pass along what he says then to other commissioners, although that could constitute a serial meeting, a violation of the state open meetings law.

Commissioner Eric LaBrant insisted the discussion should be as public as possible.

Columbian Business Reporter