Port of Chehalis commissioners received applicants far and wide, but they didn’t have to look too far to find a replacement for outgoing CEO Randy Mueller.
In a unanimous vote Thursday, the port commissioners approved the selection of Lindsey Senter, the port’s current director of operations and administration, as their preferred candidate to replace Mueller, who is leaving to lead the Port of Ridgefield after seven years in Chehalis.
Senter was selected among roughly 30 other applicants who sought the position. On Wednesday, she and two other finalists were interviewed by port commissioners and a seven-member community panel during an executive session.
“This has been a very long and challenging process for the three of us, as commissioners. We looked at quite a few different people,” said Chair Mark Anders, adding that Senter’s application “rose to the top of those three candidates.”
Though port commissioners have identified Senter as the preferred candidate, it’s not a done deal yet. She will still need to officially accept the position and undergo contract negotiations with commissioners and port legal counsel.
Senter said she was “truly honored and grateful” to be selected and plans on accepting the job.
The salary range for the Port of Chehalis CEO position is $100,000 to $130,000 per year.
Senter, 33, of Chehalis, has served the last three months in her current position as director of operations and administration. Prior to that, she was hired in October 2019 as the port’s director of finance and administration.
She told Todd Chaput on KELA’s “Let’s Talk About It” on Tuesday that her recent job shift at the port wasn’t a huge change, but it allowed her to serve in a more hands-on role with projects currently underway.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have even been interviewed, especially to make it this far into the process,” Senter said of being considered for the top job.
Senter has also previously worked at the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Alliance of Lewis County (formerly known as the Lewis Economic Development Council), and at her own business, Vulcan Creative, which specializes in web design, social media consultation and software development.
She was also selected as one of last year’s Young Professionals Lewis County’s “20 Under 40.” Senter has also served on the board of the Chehalis Community Renaissance Team and as a founding board member of the Women United of Lewis County.
According to a biography from the Port of Chehalis, Senter is expected to complete a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance at Centralia College later this academic year. She currently holds an associate’s degree in administration from the college.
The port CEO is tasked with overseeing four positions and day-to-day operations of the district, according to a position description. Management often makes decisions on projects and programs that affect the current and future well-being of the greater Chehalis community.
“These decisions require understanding of all aspects of a situation, analyzing options for effective solutions and the ability to negotiate and advance legislative, management and public relations issues and processes. The CEO must be able to identify and understand the near- and far-term implications of program and project decisions,” the description reads.
A bachelor’s degree in public administration, business, finance, engineering or an equivalent field is required.
That same advertisement for the CEO position encourages candidates to send cover letters and resumes over to Senter’s own public work email. Though the port processed applications for roughly 30 candidates, some possibly through Senter’s email, Mueller said he’s not worried about the perception of a conflict of interest since Senter herself was one of those applicants.
“We’re a small outfit,” Mueller said, noting that the port has checks in their systems for hiring and that he played a role in overseeing the process.
The other two finalists were Jessica Carpenter, of Port Lavaca, Texas, and Christopher Herman, of Tenino.
Movement Expected on Some Port Properties
The Port of Chehalis is seeing movement on three of its properties currently up for sale, including the 100-acre Rush Road industrial site formerly considered by Costco distribution.
The Bishop Road industrial site 2, currently listed for $11.5 million and about 60 acres in size, is being developed by Avenue 55 LLC, which is expected to build a manufacturing or distribution center, Port of Chehalis CEO Randy Mueller told commissioners Thursday.
The port is working with the developer to work through challenges of relocating a water line and sewer pipe that bisects the property east to west. Challenges for relocating one of the lines is expected to knock the original footprint of the center down from 1.07 million to a little more than 800,000 square feet.
Mueller said they’re one month into their four-month due-diligence process for the buyer.
A letter of intent with a buyer has been signed between the port for the 17-acre Maurin Road industrial site 1 property, which includes a 4-acre pond and railway access. The property is currently listed at $7 million.
Mueller said the prospective buyer is interested in bringing rail to the site, located at 273 Maurin Road. A sale agreement is expected to come forward to the commissioners at an upcoming meeting.
With the 100-acre Rush Road project, most of which is owned by Puget Western, Mueller said they’ve been courted by nine interested buyers. One buyer has been lined up to purchase the property, listed at about $9 million. Unlike previously reported information, this buyer won’t need rail access.
In total, about $28 million in port property is currently being courted for sale, though Mueller underscored that he does not expect all three deals to come to fruition.