By Paul Gottlieb, July 20, 2013, Peninsula Daily News
Two retired port directors have been selected as finalists by the Port of Port Angeles commission to take the place of former Executive Director Jeff Robb on an interim basis.
At a special port meeting Friday, commissioners unanimously selected former Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Jerry Hendricks and former Port of Longview Executive Director Kenneth O’Hollaren as interim candidates to succeed Robb, who resigned June 24.
Hire within 2 weeks
Commissioners said they want to hire an interim director within two weeks and will ask port attorney Dave Neupert of Port Angeles for an update at their regular meeting Monday at 9:30 a.m. in the meeting room at the port administrative office, 338 W. First St., Port Angeles.
During 30-minute public interviews Friday, commissioners questioned O’Hollaren in person, Hendricks by phone and a third candidate, former Pike Place Development Authority Executive Director Michael Caldwell, from Arizona via Skype, an Internet telephone application that has video options.
They went into executive session to discuss the candidates before emerging 30 minutes later.
“As a result of our dialogue, we are going to ask our port counsel to enter into discussion with two candidates,” commission President Jim Hallett said.
He announced Hendricks’ and O’Hollaren’s names as the candidates before he and Commissioners John Calhoun and Paul McHugh voted unanimously to have Neupert contact them.
“These two have the most direct applicable experience both regionally and with the port,” Calhoun said.
The commissioners have said they expect to hire a permanent replacement for Robb after the first of the year.
Hallett said the interim director position may pay about the same salary as Robb’s when he was executive director.
Robb made $138,000 and makes the same amount in the port’s newly created — and lesser — position of environmental affairs director.
The circumstances surrounding Robb’s June 24 resignation at a port meeting and immediate rehiring until he retires in July 2014 was a major topic for commissioners when they queried the candidates.
“There’s been disagreement among the commissioners on the best route forward,” Calhoun said at the meeting’s outset.
O’Hollaren’s name was submitted by the executive search firm Waldron of Seattle, which also is tasked with finding candidates for a permanent executive director.
Hendricks applied on his own.
“The [public relations] that’s gone on recently may make it difficult for a while for you to get really good top-notch candidates” for the permanent director position, said Hendricks, a 1956 Port Angeles High School graduate who began working at the port in 1967.
He held the port’s executive director position from 1979 to 1994, when he retired.
Calhoun noted that a “source of frustration” at the port was the role of the staff and their ability to “appeal important issues.”
Hendricks said he knows all three commissioners and has “lots of contacts in the Port Angeles area and Clallam County.”
“There is a strong need to develop senior management’s confidence in the commission,” Hendricks said.
“As interim [executive director], my intention would not be to make wholesale changes just for change’s sake.”
Hendricks can help make sure the port “moves on to the next level,” he said.
He was executive director of Port Angeles-based Washington Citizens for World Trade, a wood-products trade organization, from 1994 to 2006, when it shut down.
After retiring, Hendricks was the port’s representative on the failed Harbor-Works Development Authority.
It was created in 2008 to acquire and redevelop Rayonier Inc.’s 75-acre former mill site and was dissolved in 2010 after the company stopped negotiating on a purchase agreement.
Harbor-Works borrowed $650,000 each from the city of Port Angeles and the port, and returned what was left when it shut down: $84,367 each to the city and the port.
Calhoun asked O’Hollaren if he had been following news reports on Robb’s departure.
O’Hollaren said he had read reports at www.peninsuladailynews.com on Robb’s departure and a whistle-blower complaint by port Director of Business Development Colleen McAleer that led to Robb’s exit
“In my role, I would view myself as a facilitator,” O’Hollaren said.
Hallett asked O’Hollaren what successes he “would like to be celebrating” if he is named interim director.
He responded that a top-end result would be having senior staff focused “strictly on the work plan ahead of them without distractions,” he said.
He said he also wanted to “make headway” on resolving port-lease-related issues that were at the heart of the whistle-blower complaint.
“I have experience with that,” he said.
“That’s the kind of thing I would see myself directly involved in.”
O’Hollaren was the longest-serving port director in Washington when he retired from the Port of Longview in 2012 after 24 years as the top administrator, according to The (Longview) Daily News.
The port saw unprecedented growth near the end of his tenure but also was caught in a labor dispute that caused friction between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and port officials, the newspaper said.