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Executive Director Sean Clark, Business Development and Real Estate Manager Amy Bynum both have roots in Columbia County

PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Port of Columbia County executive director Sean Clark attends a commission meeting in November 2021.As the Port of Columbia County deals with the aftershock of allegations of financial impropriety against former executive director Doug Hayes, two locals have taken new leadership positions in the agency.

Sean Clark, who has lived in Columbia County since he was a child going with his stepdad to the graveyard shift at Beaver Generating Plant, was named the port's new executive director last month.

Amy Bynum grew up in Columbia County and is returning to take on the role of business development and real estate manager for the port.

Clark's previous position as North County operations and terminal manager is now vacant.

On Oct. 15, port commissioners announced that Hayes' resignation weeks prior came after an employee reported concerns about the possible misuse of Port of Columbia County funds by Hayes.

"It was tough. It was sudden," Clark said. "We can't say too much about it, because there's an investigation going on, but there have been some controls put in place that we've done internally to ensure we don't have similar issues."

Clark was appointed interim executive director after Hayes' resignation. Having no transition period to overlap with an outgoing director or have them do any preparation to ease the jump "has been challenging," Clark said.

He added, "But we've got really good staff, so anything I've got questions on, I have staff that know 99% of the stuff."

Bynum, who started with the port less than two weeks ago, came from Greater Portland Inc., an economic development association serving the Portland metro area, including Columbia County.

The position now held by Bynum had been vacant for most of 2021. 

Since Paula Miranda left the position to run the Port of Newport in May 2019, the port has had two business development and real estate managers, neither of whom held the role for more than eight months.

In early November, Clark said he was hopeful Bynum's transition into the role would be relatively easy because the work is similar to her previous position.

Clark, on the other hand, is still working to get up to speed with the port's work in the south county, after six years focusing on north county operations.

In South Columbia County, the McNulty Creek Industrial Park in St. Helens is undergoing expansion, with a new building in the works. Plans for the new building — which would likely be occupied by a current port tenant who is looking to relocate — are still in early stages, but Clark gave a rough estimate of $6 million to $8 million.

At the Scappoose Industrial Airpark, the port recently completed a 31,500-square-foot hangar building.

The hangar was constructed for Devinaire, which provides private jet charter services in the Pacific Northwest and aircraft maintenance and storage services, but the company is no longer planning to take the building.

"They suffered from some of the COVID issues that the airline industry did in general, which basically took them out of the running," Clark said.

The building was only recently completed, with a certificate of occupancy granted last month.

The hangar was built to Devinaire's specifications, but Clark said, "It's still a very marketable building for us."

Another 12,000-square-foot hangar with office space is being marketed for lease at the airport. 

The port is also continuing the Port Westward rezone efforts and is working with NEXT Renewable Fuels on the company's plans for a biofuel facility. 

"When and if the rezone property is approved … it's not going to look like a bunch of smokestacks, essentially. It's going be very selective," Clark said.

The long-awaited environmental cleanup on Railroad Avenue at the former Pope and Talbot wood treatment facility is approaching, with the feasibility study for potential cleanup options expected to be completed and sent to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality this month. The insurer that the port expected to pay for most of the multi-million dollar cleanup declared bankruptcy earlier this year, which could pose an issue down the line.

"At this point in the game, I'm still kind of getting some firehose treatments so some of the stuff I haven't really gotten granular on," Clark said.

Although it hasn't been a seamless transition, Clark says he's invested in the port's mission.

"I've always loved what ports do, just from the aspect of economic development and trying to bring jobs," Clark said. "I would love to turn some people around and not have them drive out of the county and have them be able to work here — all the while realizing it's got to be the right fit for the county."


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