The Port of Hood River gave three of its five commissioners a sendoff Tuesday, marking an unusual transition: the majority of its commission left office June 30.
“I can’t think of three individuals who better epitomize the spirit of cooperation,” Port Executive Director Michael McElwee said of Fred Duckwall and Jon Davies, who are leaving office, and Rich McBride, who is switching to county board of commissioners. It was their final session with the port.
New on the port commission after their election in May are John Everitt and Dave Meriwether, along with Ben Sheppard.
Ben Sheppard shares his name with Benjamin Sheppard, who was elected to Hood River County School Board.
Both B. Sheppards are both long-time Hood River residents, both fathers, and are distant cousins. The port Sheppard goes by Ben, the school district Sheppard goes by Benjamin.
Hoby Streich, who is about to succeed Brian Shortt as president, told the departing commissioners during the reception, “I can’t thank you enough for your time and effort and wish you all well. Rich, on the commission, looking forward to working with you. Thanks to you all.”
The three commissioners’ chairs were symbolically turned away from the table and their nameplates placed downward, but only until the port meeting that started after the reception. In addition, the trio were given their lobby photos, with staff members signatures on the backs.
In Tuesday’s mini-roast at the port (involving cake and juice) Shortt thanked the outgoing commissioners, saying, “It’s been a great fraternity. We have had good arguments and good discussion, which is what you want, and when you look at the success of getting budgets passed and things accomplished it is a tribute to these three guys who are retiring and certainly an impression for staff now and in the future as to ‘what does it really take to be successful?’”
Shortt noted that “Rich is going on to the county and the other two guys I am sure will remain involved in the community.”
For Duckwall, CEO of Duckwall packing house, this is the second retirement from public service; in 2001, he ended 28 years on the school board after his election to Port.
“The port is so important to the function of the organization, and you three in particular, it felt like you supported us, even if you disagreed with us or wanted us to go in another direction, or we made a mistake, you always supported me and the staff, and that mean so much to morale and so much to the success of projects long-term,” McElwee said.
The three port retirees did not make remarks at the reception. The low-key nature of the celebration was likely fostered by Duckwall who, according to McElwee, put the kibosh on a big sendoff.
“Fred said, ‘Just get a cake,’ and so we did. But we got a large cake,” McElwee said.
“Your service has been a treasure,” McElwee told Duckwall.
He gave Duckwall the honorary term “Commissioner of Agriculture, Wisdom and Efficient Meetings,” in part for his renown in keeping the agenda at a brisk clip, sometimes to the point of kicking Shortt in the leg.
“Fred has represented the agriculture community that is so vital,” McElwee said. “Because of Fred, I know the weight of a full, freshly picked bin of fresh pears. It’s 1,134 pounds. It was important for the bridge.”
McElwee dubbed Davies, who served eight years, “Commissioner of Modesty, Networking and Potential Conflicts of Interest.”
“Jon Davies lent his street cred to the commission: he’s a race car driver, he’s King of the Hook when he wants to, and he wins the Commissioners Cup (windsurfing) when he decides to.” McElwee said. “I also have the claim to fame of holding Jon’s hand for five minutes at a (Oregon Port Commission Association) bonding exercise,” but when there was a mix-up on hotel booking, “we drew the line at sharing the same hotel room.”
He said, “Jon Davies knows everyone. If he had a Rolodex, it would be the size of a tire,” noting that “because of that ‘Rolodex,’ he was always saying he had conflicts with everything.”
“Potential: potential conflicts,” Port Legal Counsel Jerry Jaques interjected.
To McBride, who served six years, McElwee gave the title “Commissioner of Waterfont Accessibility, Gentle Persuasion and Political Dynasties.” McBride hosted Local Wednesdays barbecues for port vendors and users, donating his own money, often helped by his wife, Kate McBride, who serves on Hood River City Council.
As to McBride’s election to the County in November, McElwee said, “I never knew people to use the port commission to go to higher office. It feels like the McBride dynasty.
“This man is even keeled under any circumstances. I have never seen him get upset. He is a genuinely nice person,” McElwee said. “I have always appreciated Rich’s innovative thinking, he always has suggestions, always thinking a little bit farther, a little bit deeper, usually than I do oftentimes.
“And that is a brilliant strategy for change. What Rich will do is he’ll make a suggestion, lay down a marker, and at first you think, ‘No, that won’t work,’ and then after you think about it you can incorporate that into the decision. It has always been really beneficial to me and to the port.”