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Port commissioners scrap oft-ignored term limit

Commissioners agree change is good but say Keyser is best as president


Port of St. Helens commissioners voted Wednesday to do away with language in a port policy that could be construed to limit officers of the board to serve not more than three consecutive years.

The internal policy, which port director Patrick Trapp said is more restrictive than what state law requires, has been waived in officer elections for the past several years, allowing the board’s president, Robert Keyser, to serve six years in a row in the commission’s top seat.

On Trapp’s recommendation, commissioners decided to change the policy rather than continue waiving it.

“Within that policy, it basically says, ‘Each officer so elected shall take office immediately and shall serve not more than three consecutive years, comma, or until his or her successor is elected,’” Trapp said. “So either only three years, or — that’s an ‘or,’ not — so you can interpret that as why you keep the policy the way it is, should you desire.”

Commissioner Chris Iverson said he liked Trapp’s proposal to remove the language referring to “three consecutive years.”

“I just don’t see a reason to limit it,” said Iverson. “I mean, if somebody’s doing a good job in a chair, why would you want to change that? And if you don’t like what they’re doing, you vote ‘em out.”

Commissioner Terry Luttrell said that port commissioners must also consider how the public perceives a static slate of board officers.

“I think one thing we need to consider is public perception of the same people over and over and over and over again,” said Luttrell. “The port never changes. I mean, I think we need to consider that, what the public perception is.”

Commissioner Mike Avent suggested that the “three consecutive years” language at least got the commissioners to think about how long officers have been serving when annual elections take place.

Keyser remained mostly silent during the discussion, but he spoke up toward the end of it.

“I think whatever we do and whomever we do it with shouldn’t be by suspending the rule,” Keyser said. “We either follow the rule or change the rule.”

The commissioners, who all indicated support for keeping Keyser as president for a seventh straight year, seemed to agree with this, and Iverson’s motion to change the policy and adopt Trapp’s proposed language was approved without objection.

Officer elections immediately followed the policy discussion. Unlike last year, when the entire slate of officers was reelected, the port commissioners shuffled four of the five positions, electing Avent as first vice president, Iverson as second vice president, Luttrell as secretary and Port Commissioner Colleen DeShazer, who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, as treasurer.

DeShazer previously served as first vice president, chairing meetings at which Keyser was absent.

Iverson and Avent said DeShazer has a new job that has cut down on her ability to attend meetings in person, making a less time-intensive position a better fit for her.

Meanwhile, Keyser was reelected unanimously on a motion by Iverson.

“Robert’s done a great job sitting in the chair,” Iverson said. “I don’t disagree that, you know, change is good, but I’ll tell you, I don’t see anybody on our current commission, including myself, that can put in the time and the energy that Robert does in this position.”