Port varies meeting times to attract diverse audience

Commissioners will meet at noon instead of 5 p.m. once a month

The Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners’ meetings tend to feature the same audience members on a regular basis. Martha Martin and Richard Hamby, a Washougal couple, regularly attend the meetings. So do Kent Mehrer, the president of the Camas-Washougal Aviation Association, and Tony Bacon, a boater and regular user of Parker’s Landing Marina.

“We have our regulars,” David Ripp, the port’s chief executive officer, said during the Commission’s Oct. 7 meeting. “We have Richard and Martha and Kent and Tony, and that’s our standard, unless we have a special occasion. Then we tend to have a larger turnout.”

To help build a larger audience, Ripp, along with the three Port commissioners, have agreed to change the time of the Port Commission’s second meeting of the month from 5 p.m. to noon.

The Commission is trying out the noon meeting time on a trial basis, Ripp said.

“Maybe going at noon will drive people (to our meetings),” he explained. “Maybe they get home from work and the last thing they want to do is get on their computer and go to a meeting, but on their lunch hour, they’re still fresh and can get involved with us and listen in and see what’s going on with the Port.”

Commissioner Larry Keister told the Post-Record that Port leaders “want the community to know what projects we are working on and to get as much public input as possible.”

Ripp said longer presentations or discussions will be scheduled for the 5 p.m. meeting on the first Wednesday of every month, while the noon gatherings will tend to be shorter.

“The noon meeting is more for regular Port business,” Ripp said, “and our evening meeting is (for when) we have a community event or open house or workshop.”

Keister brought up the idea of a possible change during a September Port meeting.

“We want to give it a try, to see if we can generate more interest in the participation from the community if it fits into their schedule a little bit better,” Keister said. “Also, I thought it would make it easier for staff. If the meeting was during a normal workday, possibly they could join us.”

Commissioner John Spencer said he wasn’t sure if the time change would elicit its desired effect, but agreed it’s worth a try.

“I think every public agency I’ve ever been in discusses this issue on a regular basis,” Spencer said during the Oct. 7 meeting. “My experience has been that if people want to show (up to the meetings), they’ll show. But that said, there’s certainly no harm in trying it, and I love the idea of going easier on staff, so sure, let’s see how it goes.”

Commissioner Cassi Marshall noted that other Washington port commissions vary their meeting times to account for various work schedules.

“My big thing is protecting the accessibility of our meetings to make sure they’re as easy as possible for the public to get to,” Marshall said during the Oct. 7 meeting. “I think a trial for the lunch hour to see if that does work for swing-shift workers or some other worker schedules (would be good). I’m totally fine with giving it a try.”