The first thing you notice about Port of Astoria Executive Director Jack Crider is his ready smile and positive approach to things. There's a hint of mischief in that smile too, and a sense of adventure that's borne out in his life story.


Jack is a rare breed in Oregon these days, a native-born son from a pioneer family.


The Criders hail back to the 1850s in the Oregon communities of Dallas and Monmouth. His family ran a general store in Dallas during the Great Depression, and the store remains there today.


Crider's sense of adventure kicked in early in life, when he took a career turn that brought him to the sea.


"I was kind of the turncoat," he said. "I was supposed to carry on the family business."


That was before he found a high school teacher who got him interested in fish. That led to a degree in fishery science, and he began a stint in the scientific end of the commercial fishing realm.


"I was the first Oregon state observer to go out on the Bering Sea," Crider said.


Eventually he got disillusioned with his financial prospects as a fish biologist, and that led him back to his family's entrepreneurial roots, but this time on the shore.


His father bought a fish packing plant on the Oregon coast, and Jack joined the business and made good money.


"The second year we did really well, and put money down on the old Depot Bay Fish Company in Depot Bay," he said. "Then we bought the old Cape Perpetua seafood plant in Newport."


This phase of life saw his family's company become owners of fish packing plants all along the coast. Crider worked in that business from the late 70s until 1990. He weathered ups and downs in the seafood industry, and finally retired.


His hiatus lasted about a year.


"I decided I needed to go back to work," he said, and began another innovative chapter in his professional life.


Crider segued into another seemingly maritime related job, as executive director of the Port of Tillamook Bay. He spent 16 years there, the longest lasting director ever at the POTB. Crider remembers his tenure fondly.


"Being in Tillamook so long I was able to stay and complete projects. I accomplished all my goals there." he said. "It was all about patience and persistence — staying on track and completing projects."


But while Crider enjoyed the satisfaction of his work at POTB, there was one thing missing — Tillamook, despite its name, was a dry port with no marine interests. Ultimately the call of the sea led him to Astoria.


He started his current job as Port of Astoria executive director in July 2008. While he's happy to be working in the maritime realm again, Crider said Astoria's port in particular is a fascinating entity, partly because of its rich history.


"That history has been forgotten," he said. "We have a big impact [now] but nothing like we had in the past. It's a challenge to bring that back."


Crider has an apartment locally that he stays in during the week, but on weekends he heads for home in Lincoln City, where he lives with his wife Shawn — they'll celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary next year. The couple has two sons, one a teenager still at home. Their older son lives in Arkansas.


Crider is aware that he's taken a job that's been steeped in controversy in the past.

"There was a bet that I wouldn't last three months, six months, a year," he said.


He said ports in general have a lot of inherent potential, but are typically in a constant state of change, because the elected officials who govern them move in and out of office so quickly. That can make it challenging to attain consistency and balance in policy-making.


But outside of work, now that he's spending his days by the seashore again he's going to get down to business.


"I have three small boats, and I don't even go anywhere. Once a year I start up the boat in the backyard," he said. "The goal here is to get rid of my project boats and get back into the fishing — buy one good boat and just go fishing."


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