The Port of Hood River is a municipal corporation, authorized by voter initiative in 1933. The Port is governed by an elected, five-member Board of Commissioners. The Port District covers an area roughly from the Columbia River to Parkdale and west to Viento. Each Commissioner serves a four-year term in, essentially, a volunteer position. Compensation is limited by statute to $150 per meeting.
Port Commissioners attend long meetings, review a phone book’s worth of documents each month and devote many hours of personal time to public service. An individual Commissioner has no specific authority; their “power” stems solely from collective decision-making. Among the board’s key tasks are overall leadership and direction, policy-setting, approval of contracts and larger expenditures, and adoption of the annual budget. Only one employee reports to the Board — the Executive Director. Since 1933, a total of 61 Commissioners have led the Port, only four of them women. Newly elected Kristi Chapman will be the 5th. There is a plaque on the wall of our conference room that names them all.
The Commission is the single most important factor in the success or failure of a port. The ability of a group of five individuals, each with different views of policy, projects and priorities, to reach agreement or compromise, without personal rancor, is paramount. This community has been extraordinarily well-served by the individuals who have stepped forward over eight decades to serve as Port Commissioners. Each has served in a role that includes the often meager helpings of praise and generous criticism that abound in the public agency realm.
I have served as the Port’s Executive Director since July 2006. In my time here, I have had the opportunity to report to, and work with, consistently excellent boards and board members. In terms of individual Commissioners, I think of the constant encouragement of Commissioner Kathy Watson, the consistent, quiet support of Commissioners Fred Duckwall and Don Hosford, and the proactive, positive thinking of Commissioner Jon Davies as outstanding examples. Although each election has brought new voices and a different overall dynamic, in my time here each Commission has worked collaboratively and well. This is not always the case in other ports statewide.
Now comes the retirement of Commissioner #62 Brian Shortt. Mr. Shortt has served eight years on the Port Commission. I have spent many days travelling with him to Washington DC to meet with federal officials, (usually to discuss bridge replacement), and worked closely with him on many projects, large and small. I believe that Commissioner Shortt’s impact on the Port of Hood River will prove the equal of any prior Commissioner. If the Marina is operated more effectively, if the Port is looking more futuristically at its strategic business plan, if the waterfront uses and users are considered more carefully, and if a new bridge is finally built, I will look back on the encouragement, cajoling and positive irascibility of Commissioner Shortt.
We should all appreciate his boundless energy and record of service. As we should likewise appreciate all those who participate on the various Boards, Commissions and Councils of local government.