The Port of The Dalles Commission approved an 18.5 percent salary increase Oct. 9 for its executive director, Andrea Klaas, her first raise since 2007.
The four directors voting in favor of the immediate increase — which raises Klaas’ pay to $100,000 per year plus benefits — say it was based on job performance and the need to be competitive in the professional marketplace.
“The information we have might indicate the possibility that the position is severely underpaid compared to other commissions,” said Commissioner Greg Weast.
Comparable figures provided by the Oregon Public Ports Association suggested that might be true. Klaas original salary of $81,500 is significantly lower than most of the salaries of port directors in communities of similar size. Oregon port director salaries range from $27,000 for a three-quarter time port director in Alsea to $346,565 at the Port of Portland.
A 2012 salary survey conducted by the ports association showed the Hood River port director’s salary at $102,672; St. Helens at $113,568; increasing to Coos Bay at $132,000. Based on comparable maintenance and operation budgets, the Cascade Locks director was earning $112,000 at the time of the survey. At Garibaldi, the number last year was $84,460.
Directors Bob McFadden, Greg Weast, David Griffith and Mike Courtney voted in favor of the increase. McFadden, the commission president, said Klaas helped hold the line during the years of recession, protecting the 1,400 jobs housed at the port industrial park.
“When we sat down and did the work plan, the majority of the commission believed she achieved those goals,” McFadden said. “To her credit, she has continued, at least in my opinion, to improve the relationships the port has with other ports and the economic development people we deal with locally and statewide.”
Not everyone on the commission agreed. Commissioner Kristi McCavic voted against the increase.
“In my opinion, her performance doesn’t justify that exorbitant amount of a raise,” McCavic said. “I think the opportunity is coming up with the Chenoweth [Creek] development that may give her a chance to show her performance deserves an increase, but at this point I think it is a ridiculous amount.”
In response to concerns that the job may be underpaid for the market, McCavic said, “If you look, in my opinion, there is a different type of work to what they do. We don’t have a bridge. It’s not the same kind of job description. We’re comparing apples and oranges.”