Two Port of Longview Chief Executive Officer hopefuls say modernizing and growing the port will be the biggest challenge they would face in the role, but their past experiences have prepared them to succeed.
Dan Stahl, the port’s interim CEO, and Gus Hein, the principal of the Global Business Advocates consulting firm, are vying for a permanent spot at the port’s helm.
Whoever earns the position will lead the port as it takes on several major projects, including a $70 to $100 million industrial rail corridor expansion, the redevelopment of Berth 4 and the port’s centennial.
“We have an orientation toward growth,” Stahl said Friday during a virtual meet-and-greet hosted by the port. “Growth is expensive, and we need to work not only internally but also with our partners and be aggressive on the grant side” to find funding.
Stahl has served as interim CEO since February while the port has searched for a permanent replacement for Norm Krehbiel. He had been the port’s chief operating officer since 2017.
Stahl said he joined the port’s staff three years ago because he wanted to take another executive port position, and he knew Krehbiel planned to retire soon, he said.
One of his early responsibilities on port staff included working on the negotiation teams for a lease agreement at berths 1 and 2, or Bridge Terminal. The port ultimately signed an agreement with International Raw Materials, a soda ash and dry bulk exporter whose business boosted port revenues and supported jobs with the local longshore union, Stahl said.
“It turned into that win-win-win, but it took a lot of hard work. It took a lot of really good listening skills on all of our parts, and it took an amount of trust between IRM and the port, and significantly with Local 21,” Stahl said. “I believe that’s a really good success story we are hoping to repeat in the future.”
Hein currently serves as the principal of Global Business Advocates, a multi-disciplinary consulting company that works with global corporate and government clients. That role includes international business development, board advisory, government relations and organizational planning.
“I have had the fortune to lead a lot of different trade missions for port and clients all over the world. And I think what means the most to me about this opportunity is to help to work with the commission of the Port of Longview and the staff to chart the future of the port.”
Hein also worked as the executive officer to the Port of Long Beach (California) Board of Harbor Commissioners, a “binary” role that involved advising port leaders and leading government outreach efforts. His 10-year tenure made him the longest-serving executive officer in the history of the port, he said.
Nevertheless, the port’s five-member board removed him from the position after a closed-door session in 2007. When asked about the dismissal Friday, Hein pointed to a change in leadership at the port.
“Anybody who has been in that kind of position understands you serve at the pleasure of the board. I had a wonderful experience. … But when a new president comes in, it is their prerogative to bring their own people. You can’t take it personally,” Hein said.
Since then Hein has had a successful 13-year career with Global Business Advocates. He specifically highlighted his work with the Port of Hueneme (California, north of Los Angeles).
Hein helped the port sign on new agricultural clients from Latin America and successfully grow its business. He purposefully included representatives from the longshore union in each trade mission, he said.
“I found out that a lot of people didn’t even know Hueneme existed.These were people that were booking cargo to come to the U.S. on major ocean carriers. And that really surprised me, Hein said. “But it underscores the importance of getting out and meeting the customers as one of the best ways to retain business and identify future business,” which Hein plans to do for Longview.
A complete recording of the meet-and-greet is available online at KLTV.org.
Hein and Stahl will meet with port staff in the coming days, and the commission expects to fill the vacancy by the end of the month.
The CEO is the only employee hired directly by the port commissioners, and it is usually the top paid position with the organization.
Krehbiel served in the position four years, though his tenure with the port spanned almost three decades in other positions. His salary in 2019 was $173,400.
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