Retirement on the Horizon for Port of Pasco’s Jim Toomey

Kristi Pihl, December 9, 2013, Tri-City Herald

Jim Toomey won’t be painting the big picture for Port of Pasco commissioners much longer.

On Dec. 31, he’s handing over the role of executive director to Randy Hayden, the port’s deputy executive director.

After 22 years, Toomey said he’s ready to retire. He told commissioners of his intent about a year ago, and the port has been preparing for the transition ever since.

Toomey, 65, doesn’t take credit for any of the port’s projects during his time as executive director, describing himself as the manager, not the doer.

“Everything we have done has been a collective effort,” he said.

But while he takes no credit, he has been part of the port as it evolved from being in danger of going below the cash reserve required for bonds in 1992 to one that’s planning to pay for a $43.5 million doubling of the Tri-Cities Airport terminal using only airport-related dollars.

He’s had his hand in the Pasco Processing Center, the Foster Wells Business Park, numerous airport-related projects, re-roofing the Big Pasco Industrial Center and construction of the Osprey Pointe Business Park.

Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield recalls that he and Toomey had “a baptism by fire” working together on the processing center.

About a year after Toomey started at the port, JR Simplot expressed interest in the processing center. Crutchfield said that meant the city had to build a process water reuse facility to treat wastewater from the food processors, and the port had to figure out how to extend street, rail, sewer and water to the food processing park off of Highway 395.

And they had to get it done in a year, so JR Simplot could open a frozen vegetable processing plant in 1995.

Now, officials point to the Pasco Processing Center as an economic development success story they’d like to repeat.

Crutchfield said Toomey has been an instrumental part of a group that includes the chief executive officers of the city, port, Pasco School District and Franklin PUD who’ve met monthly for nearly 20 years.

He’s been a part of the coordination to improve Pasco’s tax base and to get the most out of every tax dollar.

Franklin County is not loaded with property tax money, so the port had to earn its way, Toomey said. Only 15 percent of revenue is tax revenue.

For the port, “cash is king,” and commissioners and staff set up reserve accounts, such as the one for marine terminal cleanup, to help cover circumstances above and beyond the port’s control. Cleanup of petroleum at the former marine terminal east of the cable bridge is nearing completion.

“The how we do things has been as important as what we do,” Toomey said.

Before working at the port, Toomey was commissioned in the Navy in 1971 and served five years, including time as a gunnery officer.

He became an engineer at Hanford and later worked for the Tri-City Development Council. While with TRIDEC, he said he applied for the port’s executive director position because it looked exciting.

He said the work has been interesting, and he’s always been fortunate to have good bosses.

Port of Pasco Commissioner Ron Reimann said when he ran for the commission in 2011, he wasn’t a Toomey fan.

Now, he said, “I may not be his No. 1 fan, but I am up there in the Top 10.”

Toomey has integrity and respect, Reimann said. He can skillfully distill an issue, providing a reality check.

“He doesn’t lead you; he clarifies you,” he said.

Scott Keller said Toomey has been a mentor to him in his role as the Port of Benton executive director. He said he’s pragmatic, professional and handles people well.

“He’s so calm, cool and collected, and he always analyzes and he speaks really well,” Keller said.

He sees Osprey Pointe as one of Toomey’s legacies. The port has the start of a business park on the Columbia River at the intersection of Ainsworth Street and Oregon Avenue and has put in an office, the infrastructure and a pathway along the river to help make it happen.

Toomey also is one of the forefathers of the Tri-Ports, Keller said. While the partnership between the ports of Benton, Kennewick and Pasco started earlier, Keller said Toomey has helped keep it going.

Toomey brought with him a high level of professionalism, said Ron Foraker, the Port of Pasco’s airport director. People look up to him and his style of management.

“He’s just been very supportive of growth and doing the right thing,” he said. “Because of that, we’ve got a lot to look at.”

Toomey has been key in bringing together the people needed for the upcoming Tri-Cities Airport terminal remodel, Foraker said.

Now, Toomey said he plans to give himself permission to be retired for a while. He’d like to volunteer and continue biking. He and his wife Lisa have two grown children, Chris and Shannon, who both live in Seattle.

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