By Paul Gottlieb, March 5, 2014, Peninsula Daily News
Ken O’Hollaren, interim Port of Port Angeles executive director, was roundly praised at a special port commission meeting Tuesday at which public feedback was sought on hiring him to the permanent executive director position.
The one note of outright disapproval of O’Hollaren came from Magna Force Inc. Chairman and CEO Jerry Lamb, a port tenant.
Lamb, who said he had not met O’Hollaren, decried the port’s initial imposition of secrecy surrounding O’Hollaren’s selection by the board and urged commissioners to open up the hiring process “to someone refreshing” rather than a recent retiree.
Commissioners initially kept secret their selection but have defended the selection process as open and legal.
It was made public, to the surprise of at least board Vice President John Calhoun, when the port put an agenda for the Feb. 25 meeting online that included the draft contract with O’Hollaren’s name on it.
O’Hollaren, who would earn $145,000 a year and receive up to $10,000 for relocation costs, said he would remain in the port’s top administrative post from three to six years.
O’Hollaren is renting in Port Angeles during the week and returns to his home in Longview on weekends.
Commissioners will consider signing the contract, under which O’Hollaren’s job performance would be reviewed annually after the first year but which is open-ended duration-wise, at their next regular meeting Tuesday.
O’Hollaren, who turns 59 today, retired in December as Port of Longview executive director after 24 years in the position and 32 years of employment with the taxing district.
Hired as interim director in August to take over for former Executive Director Jeff Robb, who resigned, O’Hollaren initially said he did not intend to seek the permanent position.
“I quickly realized how much I did miss this industry,” he said Tuesday.
“It’s easy to get attached to.”
O’Hollaren was praised by all three commissioners.
“I will tell you I have been nothing but impressed,” Commissioner Colleen McAleer said.
McAleer’s 2013 port lease-related whistle-blower complaint as port director of business development preceded Robb’s resignation and catapulted her onto the board as its first elected female commissioner.
O’Hollaren taking over as interim director “was a tough road to take,” McAleer said Tuesday.
“We were obviously in a lot of turmoil not only with the community looking at the staff,” she said.
Just three of the port’s 14 managers and directors have been on the job for more than two years, she added.
“[O’Hollaren] understands that a port’s capability and possibility of affecting the local economy is massive,” McAleer added.
O’Hollaren said his priorities are developing the port’s composites manufacturing capabilities, getting tenants on the former Peninsula Plywood site and exploring opportunities such as establishing a barge dock at the port’s Terminal 5.
But Lamb said O’Hollaren had not distinguished himself during his tenure in Port Angeles.
“I have watched Ken since being put in as interim director and simply don’t find anything spectacular that he has done to deserve being the only one being considered by the board,” Lamb said in an email to McAleer that McAleer read at the meeting.
“We need fresh blood, fresh ideas with new and bold visions.”
In addition, community activist Norma Turner was concerned about a provision of the contract under which O’Hollaren will be paid the IRS rate of 56 cents per mile for up to six months for one round trip a week to Longview until he moves permanently to Port Angeles.
That’s $207 per trip, or $4,968 over 24 weeks.
“It interjects a social issue into a business contract,” Turner said, suggesting the provision is discriminatory unless the benefit of getting mileage to go home is available to other employees.
She had the same concern over a housing allowance in the contract that would pay O’Hollaren $750 a month for up to six months, or up to $4,500.
But O’Hollaren was mostly praised during the hourlong meeting, which was followed by a meet-and-greet session that included coffee and doughnuts.
Offering O’Hollaren kudos were Cory Armstrong of Armstrong Marine; Clallam County Economic Development Council board President Brian Kuh; Nathan West, city of Port Angeles community and economic development director; Kaj Ahlburg, a retired investment banker; former port Executive Director Jerry Hendricks, who unsuccessfully had applied for the interim director position; and former Longview resident Ron Stecker, a Sequim resident who said he has spoken with O’Hollaren while he’s been interim director.
“He’s a listener,” Stecker said.
“You are so incredibly lucky to have someone like this drop in your lap.
“It’s like winning the lottery.”