The Port of Astoria has named Will Isom the agency’s executive director after an overwhelmingly positive review from staff, tenants and outside stakeholders.
Isom, who joined the agency as a staff accountant from Columbia Memorial Hospital nearly five years ago, was elevated to the interim leadership position after Jim Knight resigned in June. He is the Port’s sixth executive director since 2012.
Isom, a Knappa native, initially didn’t want the permanent job when he was appointed to replace Knight.
“Being in this seat a while, and sort of working to move a lot things forward, I do think I have sort of a vision of where I would like to see the Port get,” he said.
“I’m local,” he said. “I was born and raised in this area. My wife, the same thing. She’s local. I don’t have any interest in leaving.”
Isom has received positive feedback from the Port Commission throughout his five months as interim director. He recently negotiated a contract with the local International Longshore and Warehouse Union tying worker pay to the Port’s performance.
The Port Commission enlisted the Special Districts Association of Oregon, a support agency for local governments, to perform a 360-degree review of Isom’s performance.
George Dunkel, the association’s administrator, queried more than 40 staff, customers and stakeholders at the Port, receiving 21 responses.
“Those results came back really positive,” he told the Port Commission on Tuesday. “The responses from the list of respondents was that he more than meets the expectations, and in many areas was distinguished and commendable.”
The Port has been trying to rebuild credibility with the state and regional partners after years of drama, dysfunction and growing distrust of executive leadership. The Port recently submitted a strategic business plan to Business Oregon, the state’s economic agency, which has funded many of the Port’s infrastructure improvements. Business Oregon will share its opinion of the plan with the Port Commission on Dec. 17.
“In general, I think they’ve been really pleased with the Port under Isom’s direction,” Dirk Rohne, the president of the Port Commission, said of the state.
Commissioner James Campbell and Commissioner Frank Spence noted the improvements in the Port’s financial reporting under Isom, who was named director of finance in December 2016. He has received plaudits for bringing the Port’s auditing functions back in-house after the agency had to hire outside consultants to correct numerous errors before his tenure.
Accounting firm TKW will present its review of the Port’s audit for the most recent fiscal year later this month.
“The last two years, Will has turned in a perfect audit,” Campbell said.
There’s a lot of risk in being the sixth director of the Port since 2012, Isom said. He has proposed a significant pay cut from previous directors in exchange for a longer-term, three-year rolling contract. Each time he receives a positive annual review from the Port Commission, Isom’s contract would be guaranteed for at least three years.
Isom said the longer term eases his fear of falling out of favor with newly elected commissioners, as has happened to some of his predecessors.
“My fear would be on a short-term deal that we could sort of have a different vision or opinion on how things should be done, and I could kind of be shown the door through no fault of my own,” he said.
Rohne and Commissioner Robert Stevens will work with the Special Districts Association of Oregon to negotiate a new contract for the Port Commission’s approval as early as Dec. 17.