Port selects Olympia man for executive director

Jim Knight

The Port of Astoria Commission Tuesday night unanimously chose Jim Knight, currently the director of the marine terminal at the Port of Olympia, Wash., as its new executive director. Knight replaces Hank Bynaker, who resigned as the Port’s last hired executive director Sept. 11.

Knight has served as director of the marine terminal in Olympia since July 2013. He began in April 2006 as marketing and business development manager. Previously, he was vice president and general manager in Puget Sound businesses focused on marketing, business development, seafood processing and trucking.

“I would consider running for re-election in May just to continue working with Jim Knight,” said newly appointed Commissioner Robert Mushen, who runs for re-election next spring. “He’s going to improve our public image; he’s very outgoing.”

Knight beat out two other finalists, including Joseph Weber, the former director of the Pacific Maritime Association, and Michael Weston, the interim executive director since Bynaker resigned.

“I want to express my gratitude to Mike,” said Commissioner Stephen Fulton. “It’s awful hard to go through this process and not get chosen.”

Weston, previously the director of business development and operations, had taken on several roles at the Port after Bynaker resigned, followed shortly by Herb Florer, director of the seaport and former deputy director.

Knight, if he accepts the job offer, will be the Port’s fifth executive director in the last 2 1/2 years, including Jack Crider, who resigned effective April 30, 2012; Florer, who was interim after Crider; Bynaker, who lasted 14 months in the position; and his interim replacement, Weston, who still holds his former position.

The Port Commission’s emotional disagreements have been a factor in the succession of Port directors. From Eureka, Calif., last October, Crider said there’s been a world of difference in his new job, having a professional commission that makes it encouraging to go to work. Shortly after his resignation, Bynaker, who cited difficulties in his working relationship with the Port Commission, said that’s what the Port needs to keep qualified people around: a commission that works cohesively with staff.

The Port Commission, which now includes four new members appointed or elected since May 2013, unanimously authorized Weston to continue as interim executive director until Knight comes on board. “It’s for a month and a half,” he said, adding that he needs the authority to sign the General Services Administration, including Customs and Border Patrol, to a lease in the bottom floor of the Pier 1 building.

The Port’s been looking for an executive director for the past 11 months. Commission Chairman John Raichl assembled an industry professional panel to help the Port Commission interview and decide on candidates. It included:

• Retired banker Cheri Folk.

• Local labor leader Chris Connaway of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

• Retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Bruce Jones.

• Nicole Williams, CEO of Clatsop Care Center and former Clatsop County Clerk.

• Mark Morgans, an area manager with timberland company The Campbell Group.

• Plant manager David Wright of Pacific Seafood Group.

• Don Haskell, a retired lawyer and former Clatsop County commissioner.

The industry professional panel and later the Port Commission interviewed each candidate Aug. 12, after the Port Commission narrowed the search from eight to 10 candidates to four finalists. The fourth finalist, former Port of Coos Bay director Jeffrey Bishop, accepted a job at the Port of Moses Lake, Wash., before being interviewed.

Background checks and contract negotiations now begin with Knight, who on his application listed a desired salary of $176,800. Bynaker earned $130,000 in salary, with the value of his salary and benefits totaling around $196,000, according to comments by Commissioner James Campbell after Bynaker’s resignation. Raichl said he’d had Finance Manager Colleen Browne compile the salary ranges of executives of like-sized ports for negotiations.

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