Port chief’s retirement leaves void

By Mina Williams, September 8, 2014, Herald Business Journal

John Mohr always aimed to look at the big picture as Port of Everett’s chief executive officer.


Under Mohr’s eye, the port has reworked cargo systems, forecast global economies and took a few steps back to take giant leaps forward.


After 16 years at the Port of Everett, Mohr is retiring, effective January. His replacement, Les Reardanz, the port’s deputy executive director, was named last week as his replacement.


“My first care has been to maintain the business, focused inside the fence line,” said Mohr. “Then we have to add value to the whole community. The port has to participate in the community, increase opportunities and be strategic.”


While port operations tend to be brick-and-mortar centric, Mohr has looked beyond that to envision opportunities to benefit the port that have a spillover effect for Everett and the entire state.


“John has been a tremendous asset to the Everett community for the last 16 years,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. “He has been a great partner on so many projects and issues, including port security, international trade and strengthening American ports. He is leaving the Port of Everett in a strong place among our West Coast ports and I will miss working with him.”


Addressing shipments of Boeing parts enabled the milestone shipment of the 1,000th Boeing 777 airplane. This could only be done with the investment of infrastructure and the skilled workforce assembled under Mohr’s tutelage. This poised Everett to compete for Boeing 787 and 777X assembly.


Mohr points to the addition of the Mount Baker Terminal as a key piece of this achievement.


“Mount Baker is as important as a runway at Paine Field,” he said.


The terminal serves as a transfer facility for these parts to get the three miles from the docks to the Boeing plant. The sticking point was moving the cumbersome pieces that, because of the size, required the closure of the BNSF rail line so oversize rail cars could be employed.


The terminal, completed in 2008, now enables delivery of Boeing’s 787, 777X, 747 and 767 parts.


Mohr credits the nimbleness of the skilled labor force with this achievement and also pinpoints this as enabling the port to shift emphasis from wood products to break bulk cargo handling.


“I came from wood products ports,” Mohr said referring to his former positions at the port in Olympia along with ports in Newport and Coos Bay, Oregon. “When the Asian market sought wood elsewhere (than the U.S.) we knew we had to retool our business plan to go after other cargoes.”


With Everett longshoreman already handling heavy cargo and bulk cargo, including grain and oil, Mohr set his sights on securing special project cargoes that are one of a kind pieces. These break bulk shipments do not fit into containers. Parts for Boeing led the list in addition to heavy equipment used in gold mining and oil refining along with wind mill blades.


“These cargoes are big, bulky and have a different center of gravity,” said Mohr. “They have to be handled in an odd manner. Everett is now the premier break bulk port in the West.”


Mohr has also set the Port of Everett in position to be a recreational hub as industrial land is re-purposed for leisure activities.


The Port of Everett celebrated in August the start of the last phase of an $8 million cleanup on the central waterfront district. The cleanup opens the way for the Waterfront Place development, which is expected to bring a mix of homes, businesses and public spaces to the waterfront.


This redevelopment could have not occurred, said Mohr, without an extra ordinary environmental cleanup that has spanned most of his time as port chief. While these efforts have taken longer than expected he is “very proud of the clean ups. We are preparing a canvas for the future.”


“Safe environmental practices were not in existence in the early 1900s,” he said. “This left imprints that we now have to address. Everett had the largest number of cleanups on Puget Sound.”


“John’s leadership has changed the face of the Everett and Mukilteo waterfronts,” Port Commissioner Troy McClelland said. “He has worked tirelessly to strategically position the Port of Everett for growth.” This is evident in the Port’s ability to secure the direct ship calls for the oversized aerospace parts. Additionally, John took a positive and aggressive stance on cleaning up our properties, while at the same time supporting the broader community in regional economic development efforts.


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