By SUE RYAN
News staff writer
August 5, 2006
The bi-state commission that governs the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area selected Jill A. Arens as its new executive director Wednesday afternoon.
The vote was 11-0 in favor of Arens, whom the commission hired at a salary of $75,000 per year. Absent from the vote was Skamania County Gorge Commissioner Walt Loehrke.
While Arens currently lives in St. Paul, Minn., she has direct ties to Hood River County as she grew up in Hood River and graduated from Hood River High School in 1966. Her family settled in the area four generations ago. Arens’ brother, John, and mother, Ady, live in Hood River.
Arens holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in political science and a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Rhode Island.
Since then she has gone on to build many years of experience in business management in both the private and nonprofit sectors. Arens has experience managing budgets ranging from $30 million to $200 million. Her professional experience includes developing and leading high-performance teams in health care, education administration and for-profit companies. Her background includes a wide range of experience in working with diverse groups.
“Jill not only has the political consensus building skills, but also a rare knowledge of the local area and its people,” said Joyce Reinig, Gorge commissioner for Hood River County.
Wasco County Gorge Commissioner and Chair Judy Davis said that Arens has the team-building and communication skills most needed by the commission at this time.
Klickitat County Gorge Commissioner Kenn Adcock said Arens’ having come from the area is a tremendous asset to the commission.
“This is where her heart is. She is aware of and has a keen interest in the need to preserve the beauty of the Gorge,” he said.
The commission selected Arens from a field of 51 candidates. Her appointment fills the vacancy left by Martha Bennett, who left the commission in May 2006 to become city administrator in Ashland. Al Wright, of Hillsboro, has been the commission’s interim director.
Arens begins work Sept. 1. She said in response to her hiring that she was thrilled to return to the area.
“I know there are numerous, challenging current and future issues for the Gorge Commission, but I will work to ensure that they are dealt with fairly, consistently, and in alignment with the Scenic Area Act and the Commission’s Management Plan,” she said.
“My first work is to do a lot of listening and learning. I am very much looking forward to working with the residents, commission staff, commissioners, local and state governments, and senators and representatives.”
Arens said with 2007 marking the twentieth year of the Gorge Commission, it would be a good time to reflect on past successes and start planning for the future.