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Port of Camas-Washougal CEO to retire

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Port of Camas-Washougal Chief Executive Officer David Ripp has announced he intends to retire in 2024, following a port management career that has spanned nearly three decades.

Ripp, 57, made the announcement during a Port Commission meeting held Thursday, Jan. 4, and said he hasn’t set a specific date for his retirement, but “will probably leave sometime in the fall.”

Ripp added that the Port will begin a search for his replacement later this month or in early February.

“We want to have enough time for me to work with (them) to make sure they’re not just being dropped down (to) hit the ground running. They’ll have time to be brought up to speed and know exactly what they’re doing,” Ripp said, adding that he plans to help introduce the Port’s next CEO to the local community and help them acclimate to their new position.

Speaking with The Post-Record following his announcement, Ripp said he believed now is the right time for his retirement.

“The Port is doing amazing. It has an amazing staff and an amazing commission, and everybody really works well together. We all work as a team,” Ripp said. “It’s a good time to bring someone else in and transition. And hopefully it will be a smooth transition. My wife is retired now and wanting to do things while we can, and we’re still young. And I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so I’m in a good spot.”

Ripp’s wife, Sue, retired from her position as partnership coordinator for the United States Forest Service in 2022.

“She’s a couple years older than me, and she was like, ‘I don’t want to be in our 70s when we finally get to start traveling,’ and I get it,” Ripp said. “She worked (there) for 42 years. She could have retired even sooner, but she didn’t because she knew I wasn’t close to retirement yet.”

Ripp has served as the Port’s CEO since January 2008. The Port’s then-commissioners selected Ripp to replace Sheldon Tyler, who resigned in August 2007.

“I’ve been very blessed,” Ripp told Port commissioners during their Jan. 4 meeting. “I kick-started (my career) in Woodland, and I was very fortunate to be there and then come here in 2008. I’m very proud of the things that we have accomplished – not me, all of us — at the waterfront, the industrial park and the airport. It has just been an amazing place to be a part of.”

Ripp said he feels he will always be connected to the Port of Camas-Washougal, and thanked the community for allowing him to be a part of the Port’s history over the past 16 years.

Before being named as Tyler’s successor at the local Port, Ripp served as the executive director of the Port of Woodland from 1994 to 2007.

Port Commissioner Larry Keister told Ripp he was a big reason why Keister decided to run as a Port official.

“I became a commissioner because you (were) here, knowing that you’d be a great person to work with,” Keister told Ripp. “The team concept that you’ve developed over the years is what has made the Port so successful, and your legacy will continue on (because you) set the path for our long-term future. We are very proud to work with you and are looking forward to this next year and tying up all the loose ends and moving ahead.”

Commissoiners John Spencer and Cassi Marshall also lauded Ripp’s accomplishments.

“It’s bittersweet from our side of things,” Marshall told Ripp during the Jan. 4 meeting. “We are really happy … that you and Sue get to go pursue the activities that you want to do, but we will sure miss you. You’ve done the work to set up the Port to be successful for the next person. Someone will be able to step into a really collaborative, healthy, productive environment where great things are happening and good work is moving along, and that will be a lot to your credit.”

Spencer added that the commissioners knew about Ripp’s impending retirement ahead of the Jan. 4 announcement, and had been discussing what they might write in a job description during their search for Ripp’s replacement.

“I still say that the new job description should just say, ‘We want Dave,’” Spencer said. “That way, it can be short and sweet.”

The Port grew from 12 to 23 employees during Ripp’s tenure, which included the development of several major projects, including the upcoming Hyas Point waterfront development, the construction of five buildings at the Port’s industrial park and two buildings at Grove Field, and the rebuilding of the airfield after a two-alarm fire destroyed 10 hangar bays in 2014.

The Port also has become more focused on sustainability under Ripp’s leadership, highlighted by its partnership with Clark Public Utilities to construct solar panels for public use on five of its industrial park buildings and the 2023 publication of a guidebook that addresses how public agencies and businesses can improve their decarbonization efforts.

“I don’t know how I could describe it,” Ripp said of his long career as a port leader. “All I can say is that I feel very honored to be a part of the whole process, to see the changes and say, ‘I’ve been a part of that change.’ Maybe 15, 20 years from now, I have grandkids and I can say, ‘Yeah, grandpa was involved with this. Grandpa was involved with that.’ I can hang my hat on that and be proud of the things that the Port has been able to accomplish. As I’ve always said, ‘It’s not me. It’s a team.’ I’m just lucky I get to be a part of the team.”