Neal to succeed father as Port manager

Ryan Neal

The Port of Morrow has a new helmsman.

Ryan Neal, the current general manager of warehousing for the Port of Morrow, was selected unanimously by the port commission, and will fill the role to be vacated by his father Gary this fall.

Neal said he was excited for the opportunity to continue building on the successes of the current port staff.

“I’d like to continue our strategic plan, and drive economic development,” he said. “I think we always try to find solutions to whatever problems we run into, whether permitting or financial issues. We try to find ways to accomplish our goals.”

Commissioner Rick Stokoe said the commission has given Neal a conditional offer of employment, which is contingent on his passing a background check and going through contract negotiations. His salary will be between $175,000 and $225,000 annually.

“We decided Ryan was the best fit,” Stokoe said. “He’s well-informed with what’s going on at the port.”

He said Neal is also involved with the community, which was one of the commission’s top priorities.

“All our applicants were highly qualified,” he said. “But some were from big shipping ports, that only do container shipping. We do a wealth of things — economic development, shipping, helping businesses. We need someone who understands our port.”

He said the commission has not yet given Neal a start date, but estimated it will be some time in October.

Neal was one of four finalists the commission interviewed. All four appeared at a public meeting at the port on Monday, for which Stokoe said more than 100 people showed up. They shared a little about themselves and their vision for the port.

The other candidates were Dean Gardner, a longtime financial officer and businessman of Selah, Washington, Stephanie Seamans, a CPA from Kennewick, and Peter Wilhelm, a businessman who has worked for paper mills in Wallula, Washington and Zeachem.

The candidates went through four sets of interviews on Tuesday. They sat before three panels — one consisting of people familiar with the technical aspects of ports and industry, one of community members, and one of people in the business and finance world. The panelists were selected from throughout the region, said George Dunkel, the Special Districts Association of Oregon employee who conducted the candidate search.

“I feel honored that the commission selected someone that I know well,” said Gary Neal. “It’s a pretty exciting opportunity for him.”

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