There has been much speculation today on how the port commission got to a final decision on the new port director. I will present the facts here. I do this to provide the public with the background on how the commissioners arrived at our decision – whether you agree with the choice, or not, this post is intended to show I am striving to remain open and transparent.
Earlier this year the commission took an unfortunate position on Charlie Sheldon which put him in an awkward place so he resigned; I did not agree with the majority on the commission. After that action we put Rob Fix, the port's Chief Financial Officer (CFO), into the interim director's seat. That was a politically challenging but nonetheless rational move and here's why: the commission discusses many topics regarding the port, among them future needs for staffing to meet long term goals. We had discussed long term succession plans with Mr. Sheldon and Mr. Fix was one person we would have looked at to replace Charlie when he decided to retire. That doesn't mean Mr. Fix would have been promoted then or that he would even still be working at the port but we would certainly look internally to fill roles, most organizations do this and I agree with the practice. Thus, and I will grant you the questionable circumstances argument, the choice to make Rob the interim director makes sense.
We then went out to the marketplace using a respected search firm to find a new director. After a long, careful process we wound down to 9 candidates that each commissioner was able to interview one on one. Yes, Rob was in the pool of nine. As I stated above, I do believe that internal candidates should be interviewed. As a rule the names of people interviewed but not selected for the final unveiling are not discussed publicly so as to protect their employment status where they currently work – it is standard practice and appropriate. Since Rob was not selected in the final 3 we kept his name, as well as the other 5, confidential. This is the reason you did not know about his interview, just as you will not know the names of the other candidates since it is crucial to maintain that privacy.
We brought 3 candidates forward to vet through our local process and those were Jonathan, Bill and Les. Jon most closely fit the criteria the commission identified and we intended to extend an employment offer to him. However, later we learned that Jon felt he wasn't going to be a good fit here. And, no, it's not an east coast/west coast thing, I believe that Jon's work has led him to positions that seem similar to our port but differ in execution. We have a very hands on system of governance in this state that dates back to our inception, we may seem like busy bodies but we get involved in our government activities and take ownership in ways that are unfamiliar to folks from other places.
So, Jon came out here, we interviewed him, he interviewed us and he felt like he wouldn't be a good fit. I applaud him for being honest enough to the citizens here to take a good look and choose carefully, that is worthy of respect and I extend my thanks and respect to him for being professional enough to do that.
Given that we still had great candidates to choose from your commission went back into session to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of those candidates. This means we discussed all the candidates in the pool of 9 we identified earlier so that each was carefully weighed once again. We then decided that the pool should be reduced to Bill and Les, who are both very capable and very qualified, as well as a third candidate from the pool, Mr. Fix.
Each candidate was discussed very candidly, very openly and no holds were barred. The commission did not flip a coin, nor sit around over beers joking our way to a conclusion. We had an extremely honest conversation amongst ourselves and individually came to the same point.
I am breaking no confidences sharing the following, it is my honest and best conclusion. I will say that Mr. Panos brings an unearthly set of skills in his toolbox but not quite what we are after. Mr. Reardanz is an exceptionally skilled lawyer and becoming a great asset at the Port of Everett but I felt he needs more port time in the trenches before taking a leadership role. Both men will continue to succeed and I wish them all my best.
Our decision to hire Mr. Fix rests on one and only one premise: who can best serve the needs we have identified. For me, economic development through the facilitation of job creation is paramount and one of the two goals in the port's mission statement. Good stewardship of the public's assets is another critical goal and all three finalists were certainly capable of giving us their best and succeeding. We have seen Mr. Fix's work over the past 4 years and in the last few months he has done well as our interim director.
Jim and Scott have their own points which you will have to ask them for, I won't speak for them here.
It was decided that further delay, more looking or a new process would still leave us in an uncertain position with just as many unknowns. You will criticize us for presenting a sham process but I assure you it was as I have described above. I hope that you will see I have been open and honest since the day I took office, that when wrongs at the port need exposing that I will expose them. I further hope that you will see my airing of this story is to ensure that you have the same facts I have had.
You may criticize us and given this past year we haven't made the best choice every time so we are deserving of your scrutiny. What I hope you will do now is continue to push us for our best, as well as push us to get the best from the port leadership and staff. The Port of Bellingham belongs to the people of Whatcom County and the commission is your conduit so thank you for staying engaged.
If you have any questions or need clarification ask me here rather than a phone call so I can make sure to share with as many people as possible