Astoria City Councilor Bruce Jones has been hired as deputy director of the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
Jones, a former Coast Guard commander who has been a trustee of the museum since 2014, replaces Dave Pearson, who recently left to be executive director of the World of Speed motorsports museum in Wilsonville.
The maritime museum, one of Astoria’s main attractions, has built a reputation as one of the premier institutions of its kind in the U.S. It sits along the Columbia River near the 17th Street Dock and has been experiencing record attendance.
“I’ve loved the museum since we moved here, and I’m very passionate about our mission,” Jones said.
Jones was speaking with the museum’s executive director, Sam Johnson, two weeks ago about the future of the museum and whether to hire another deputy director. Johnson had originally planned to put off a decision until January.
“At the end of the conversation, he said that when he learned about the opening, that he’d like to be the next deputy director of the museum,” Johnson said of Jones.
The opportunity to hire Jones was a no-brainer, with his background in the Coast Guard and experience in personnel management, Johnson said.
“He is absolutely one of the finest individuals I think I can name anywhere,” he said.
Jones retired in Astoria after more than 30 years in the Coast Guard, the last three spent as commander of Sector Columbia River. He oversaw air, sea and land units along the Oregon and Washington state coast and up the river to Lewiston, Idaho. Part of his job was as captain of the port, with regulatory oversight of regional maritime traffic. This will be his first staff position with a museum.
“I’m very knowledgeable of the local maritime industry,” Jones said. “I feel like I have some expertise in our subject matter.”
A career helicopter pilot, Jones went to work for Brim Aviation after leaving the Coast Guard, transporting Columbia River Bar Pilots by air to and from ships. He left in January after replacing Russ Warr on the City Council. The position at the maritime museum was the only one that would take him out of semiretirement, Jones said.
Johnson and outgoing museum board Chairwoman Helena Lankton lauded Jones’ managerial experience overseeing hundreds of Coast Guard personnel and his knowledge of the regional maritime industry, and said he will be a quick learner on how to run a museum.
“He’s great on a lot of issues,” Lankton said. “Whatever he needs to learn, he’s a great administrator. He’s a smart cookie.”
Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies and German from Washington and Lee University, a master’s in public administration from Syracuse University and training in national security and foreign policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Along with his trusteeship with the museum, Jones serves on the board of the Friends of the Astoria Armory.
Pearson became acting director after the retirement of Jerry Ostermiller in 2008. When Johnson was hired in 2009, Pearson became the museum’s first deputy director. Part of the decision of whether to hire a replacement was the timeline of Johnson, who said he will be with the museum a maximum of five more years.
“I’m 73, and Bruce is 57,” Johnson said. “If he works out well, he could be there a long time.”
The museum will hold its annual membership meeting Friday, when Lankton will pass the gavel to attorney and trustee Michael Haglund. Lankton is confident the museum’s late founder, Rolf Klep, would be pleased with their new hire and the direction of the 55-year-old museum.
“Rolf Klep has got to be looking down and going, ‘Yes,’” she said. “His museum is going to be in good hands for the foreseeable future.”