HOOD RIVER, OR – After sixteen years of service as the Executive Director of the Port of Hood River, Michael McElwee announced Tuesday that he will retire from his position on July 8, 2022. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the Port of Hood River and this community over the past 16 years,” McElwee said. “The Port has a remarkable legacy supporting both the economy and quality of life of this community. I am grateful to have played a part.”
McElwee has served as the Port’s Director since July 2006. During his tenure the Hood River waterfront underwent a transformation with construction of several recreational facilities utilizing state and federal grant funding and significant private investment in light industrial and commercial developments. With Port Commission backing, McElwee accelerated efforts to replace the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate bridge, securing a commitment from the State of Oregon in 2017 to fund the completion of the federally required NEPA process and provide statutory authorities for bridge replacement. McElwee led efforts to upgrade the Ken Jernstedt Airfield and the Hood River Marina, as well as the purchase of the Lower Hanel Mill property, which the Port then converted from a brownfield to shovel-ready development site. McElwee’s tenure of 16 years equals that of former Port director James O’ Banion who served as Executive Director between 1980 and 1994, and an additional two years of service that took place after his retirement.
Longtime commissioner Fred Duckwall (2001-2017) served on the executive search team in 2006 when McElwee was hired. Duckwall recalled, “Michael was the best candidate we interviewed, and I am sure glad he was selected. His leadership transformed the waterfront. He made the Port more transparent and accountable, and he put the entire Port on a good path.” Brian Shortt, who served on the Port Commission from 2011 – 2020, said, “The Commission made bridge replacement a high priority in 2016. Michael really got things moving in 2017 securing a crucial $5 million from the Oregon legislature. That was a key milestone that led to the accelerated progress we are seeing today.” Former commission president John Everitt wrote, “It was a pleasure to serve on the Commission with Michael as Executive Director. His in-depth knowledge of all the moving pieces that make up our community as well as his ability to maintain focus on long term goals through the succession of elected commissioners set the Port up for the kind of success that makes this community a richer place to live. The waterfront park areas to play in; shovel ready dirt for industrial development at Lower Hanel Mill; millions of dollars in bi-state committed funds for bridge replacement; federal dollars invested in our airport with a long term vision of an R&D, engineering and education campus focused on avionics. These are a few of the Port’s accomplishments during Michael’s stewardship.”
McElwee currently serves on the board and executive committee of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) and previously served President of the Oregon Public Ports Association (OPPA) from 2013-2015. He was recognized in 2019 as the Hood River County School District “Volunteer of the Year” for his work in support of the ASPIRE program, youth sports, and led the establishment of a summer internship program for local high school students at the Port. He has served on the board of directors of the Hood River Rotary Club, as moderator for the Riverside Community Church, and was instrumental in the formation of the OneGorge Advocacy Group in 2015. “Now, approaching 65 years old, and with the challenges of COVID receding, I am looking forward to other life pursuits and intend to continue my public service activities in Hood River,” said McElwee. “The Port has a tremendous staff who are well-prepared to maintain momentum on a wide variety of projects. I will be available to assist the Port Commission during the transition to a new Executive Director.”