Port of Camas-Washougal commissioners search for next CEO

New hire will replace longtime CEO David Ripp, who is retiring later this year

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The Port of Camas-Washougal has launched a search for its next chief executive officer (CEO).

The position, which has been open since January, will close Friday, March 29. Port Commissioners Larry Keister, John Spencer and Cassi Marshall will then review the applications, narrow the pool down to a handful of finalists and schedule interviews with them in the next two to three months in an effort to find a replacement for longtime Port CEO David Ripp by the end of July.

“John and Cassi and I are in full agreement — this is the most important thing we’ll ever do for the Port as commissioners,” Keister said. “I have a vision of what the Port can develop into, short-term and long-term. (We want to) make sure that our mission, our vision and our goals are carried on. John and Cassi and I have a lot of hours invested in what we feel is good for the community.”

Ripp, 57, announced Jan. 4, that he would retire before the end of 2024. Ripp has served as the Port’s CEO since January 2008.

“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 earlier this year. “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.”

The Port’s recruitment brochure lists a salary of $160,000 to $191,888 for the position.

“The CEO performs a critical leadership role in maintaining and expanding the region’s economic base and will enjoy strong community collaboration and support in that effort,” the brochure states. “This is a wonderful professional opportunity to help lead and advance this region’s economic development.”

Keister said the commissioners will most likely conduct three interviews with each of the finalists, assisted by a panel of community stakeholders, or as he described them, “people who will be affected by who gets the job.”

Keister added that one of the interviews will be in a public setting.

“We want the applicants to meet the community members,” he said.

The Port hired Jeannie Beckett, the principal owner of The Beckett Group, a Gig Harbor, Washington-based consulting firm, to conduct a nationwide search for its next CEO.

“It is a nationwide search, but we would like to have somebody from the state of Washington,” Keister said. “There are 75 ports in Washington, and we are all unique, but if we were to hire somebody from the state of Washington, they’d have a jump on the rules and the laws and that kind of stuff. It would be nice if they did have port experience, but it’s not required.”

Keister said Ripp has “reached out to some people that the Commission would be comfortable with to see if they’d be interested” in the position.

“(Those connections have been made) mostly through the port system. Those relationships are really important,” Keister said. “Dave and I went to a Washington Public Ports Association seminar on hiring, and we’ve reached out to other ports to (find out) how they’ve done it. We asked them, ‘How did you go through this process? Did you have two CEOs at the same time, or did your new CEO start after the previous one left?’ We found out that everyone does it differently.”

The Port’s recruitment brochure states that the ideal candidate will have a minimum of 10 years of progressively responsible management experience directing operational activities, research or marketing, economic development, finance or other activities relevant to municipal or port operations; and should have strong management and executive leadership experience.

“I’m looking for somebody that will take the vision that’s been established by previous commissioners and CEOs, and move ahead with it,” Keister said. “You’ve got two communities, and each one of them is unique. How do you tie the Port in with (the cities of Camas and Washougal) and the school districts? That, to me, is most important.”

Keister also said he would like to choose somebody who can get along well with the Port’s administrative staff; support the culture of upward mobility that Ripp fostered; work effectively with both cities’ mayors and city councilors; communicate effectively; and be detail-oriented.

“I would want somebody that has the ability to take the personality out of it and be able to work as a team,” Keister said. “Right at the beginning of the job description, we listed our mission, our vision, and our values. If you don’t agree with these things, (you probably won’t be a good fit). From my background, you can always teach somebody how to do the job. But to get along with people, to be a team player, to have a vision and make sure that it works (with the rest of the community), I want somebody with those abilities.”