The Newport Port Commission monday evening is sitting down with recently hired Port General Manager Doug Parsons to discuss whether they’re going to reprimand him, put him on probation or out-and-out fire him.
Mr. Parsons was hired just over three months ago, and commissioners are already thinking about telling him to clean out his desk. This after Mr. Parsons and his advisory committee and staff put a budget together for a port that has been drifting for a number of years, trying to pursue its destiny as a bona fide “International Port.” More than tourist boat rides. More than sailboat races. More than a NOAA research hub. More than a regional fishing catch and processing center. More than a Coast Guard outpost.
Newport voters in the 2006 election told the Port of Newport to “Take it to the next level! We want to be in the big leagues.” They passed a nearly $16 million bond to reclaim the old docks by McLean Point and convert them into a first class export terminal – to send logs, finished wood products, part of the bountiful Willamette Valley food commodities output and so much more, to foreign countries around the world and elevating the Newport area’s economy in the process.
The “International Terminal” was partially built but then the recession set in. And since that time the nearly $16 million in improvements have just sat there – waiting for project completion.
The port got a nibble from a Chinese shipping conglomerate but nothing turned out. Federal funds aimed at helping to finish the terminal were returned to Washington DC. What was once envisioned as an international shipping terminal to help diversify Newport as more than a tourist and fishing port, now has fishing boats tied up to it.
Enter Doug Parsons – a very knowledgeable private-sector corporate manager. Mr. Parsons has decades of experience with big money operations. The port hired him. He went straight to work. His financial planning expertise was quickly revealed and before long he and his budget committee and staff produced a budget and a forward-looking plan for the port to get the International Terminal back on track although the revenue challenge is enormous. That’s because while all this was going on, a lot of port maintenance and capital projects fell by the wayside. Port Dock Five and Seven are in bad shape. Mr. Parsons soon was looking at a port-wide maintenance backlog of $42 million along with $28 million in additional capital outlays to keep the port functioning properly. But he told his port commission it can all be done.
What happened next can be attributed to the port’s multi-year drift between the departure of former port manager Don Mann, his successor Kevin Greenwood and then an interim manager who Mr. Parsons took over from several months ago. That’s a long time without a strong leader to get the port moving in the right direction again.
America believes that even the “common man and woman” can be elected to high office and do wonderful things for the people and the economy. That same belief also pertains to the Newport Port Commission. But when it comes to pulling a port up from a recession, suffering a multi-million dollar project still not brought to fruition, being a commoner is not enough. You need expertise and you need to LISTEN to that expertise.
Mr. Parsons has been working day and night for the past four months to go over the port’s books, ledgers and other documents. He says that with proper coordination and growing the aspects of the port that are most productive, he can help the port catch back up to where it was back when the initial upgrades to the International Terminal were being completed.
But unfortunately there appears to be some on the Port Commission who have their own “lay” ideas about how the port’s major financial challenges can be met. But none of those commissioners have even worked for, much less managed, a multi-million dollar economic engine as is planned for the International Terminal while also repairing crumbling docks and other port-wide facilities. The deterioration was caused by decades of little-to-no maintenance, due in part to port users who have pressured port commissioners to keep user fees among the lowest on the West Coast.
All elected port commissioners are expected to bring with them an ethic of hard work, lots of homework and a shared common vision for their community in order to elevate the port to the next level. We have yet to see any sign of that. Personal agendas are still running the show.
Success in any endeavor requires a common set of goals, a joint commitment to a clear course of action and a willingness to compromise to perfect the mission. A port commission without these basic attributes will continue to walk in the same circle, going nowhere – slow.
NewsLincolnCounty.com urges the Newport Port Commission to give Mr. Parsons the resources he needs, along with their goodwill and support, so that he and his team may deliver to the residents and business community the product and services they voted for back in 2006.
They’re still waiting…