Story by John Fannin, March 11, 2014, Daily Sun News
In about a month Jed Crowther’s commute is going to get a whole lot easier.
The Port of Sunnyside’s property development and project manager, Crowther on April 7 will begin a new post in his hometown as city administrator for Connell.
“Connell is a great community and this is an opportunity to make a difference in my hometown,” he said.
Crowther and his family live in the Connell area and, before coming to the port two-and-a-half years ago, he was the city’s community development coordinator, handling planning needs.
Crowther says he’s enjoyed working for the port, but the opportunity to be administrator for his hometown and doing away with an 80-mile commute each way were too good to pass up.
“The port is just a top quality organization focused on teamwork and I think that is vital for the city of Connell to be successful as well,” Crowther said.
Teamwork and stability are both dire needs for Connell, which has seen three city administrators come and go in the past five years.
Bruce “Blackie” Blackwell is mayor of Connell, a city of about 2,600 people – not including the prison population in the area. He says the high turnover stemmed from a mix of administrators using Connell as a career stepping post or “…just weren’t cut out to take care of a rural small town in eastern Washingon.”
Crowther was actually Connell’s second choice after former Yakima interim city manager and Grandview native Michael Morales declined the job offer.
Even so, Blackwell says Connell has its man.
“Jed’s from here. We know him. We know he’s not going to bail on us like the last two did,” Blackwell said by phone from Connell City Hall. “He’s really good at planning and managing growth.”
Blackwell says Crowther’s experience at grant writing and pursuing development will be a plus for Connell. “He has a real good grasp on how to develop business opportunities and he’s good at what is required for a small town administrator.”
The Connell City Council approved Crowther’s contract on Monday, March 3, and his last day at the port will be April 4.
The Port of Sunnyside is in the midst of planning a 50th anniversary celebration and developing a crucial $7 million anaerobic digester for its industrial wastewater plant.
For those reasons, Executive Director Jay Hester said the port will wait until after summer to determine the next steps for Crowther’s post.
Hester said port maintenance manager Travis Jansen will assume construction and project management responsibilities for the time being.
Hester says Crowther will be hard to replace.
“He did a wonderful job. It’ll be hard to find someone with his caliber and character,” Hester said. “He carried a lot for us, especially in funding and resourcing.”