Cascade Locks port director finds rough waters

The Port of Cascade Locks has brought a fiscal specialist on board to help keep it financially afloat.

Behind his desk, Chuck Daughtry, the port's new executive director, has hung a copy of the Sept. 10, 1999 article "Undaunted by Debt" that was written by The Business Journal about the economic woes facing the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. Daughtry has been using it as an inspirational tool since July 1 when he took his new job and began looking for ways to make up an annual budget shortfall of about $500,000.

"You can see the light at the end of the tunnel but getting there is going to be a struggle," said Daughtry, 48.

He was hired to replace Phillip Eden of Tualatin, who accepted the job in April but then changed his mind two months later for "personal reasons." Daughtry will earn an annual salary of $75,000 and brings 15 years of expertise that he gained as the director of finance for the Port of Vancouver. He also holds a bachelor degree in financial management from the University of Oregon and his masters in general business from Washington State University.

Although the financial picture at the port is bleak, Daughtry said he willingly took the job knowing what he was facing.

"There's a time in life when you feel like you are the right person in the right place," he said. "I have worked for a port, have a strong financial background, and felt I could do some good here."

The budgetary challenges facing him are many. Although the port has an annual gross operating revenue of about $3 million it has two more years to pay $500,000 on its outstanding loans and bonds, primarily for purchase of the tollbridge. It also has a $365,000 loan for its share of the $961,000 cost to develop the 120-acre industrial park, $100,000 of which will be forgiven if development of the business center results in the creation of at least 30 new jobs.

In addition to the debt service, Daughtry said the public entity has been losing between $90,000-$250,000 for the last six years with its sternwheeler program and has had to sell off some of its assets -- such as the $1.9 million sale of Government Rock in 1999 -- in order to pay its bills.

"We need to look at the entire operation from top to bottom with a business perspective," he said.

Daughtry's first order of business was to concur with the port commission that its Portland sternwheeler sales office be shut down and the vessel brought home to stay, instead of behind docked in the metro area for eight months out of the year.

He anticipates an immediate annual savings of about $100,000 from that move.

Although the "Columbia Gorge" will have to honor its pre-paid tickets by returning to Portland this fall, Daughtry expects it to be back at its homeport shortly after News Year's Day.

He is already bringing executives from top Gorge destination resorts for a cruise on the vessel to entice them to add a two-hour educational trip to their travel packages. To help with that effort the port has hired a consultant from Portland, Jan Lake, for $40 per hour. She has previously worked with Portland Spirts, a cruise ship line with four vessels, and is experienced in both advertising and sales.

Daughtry is seeking to build a strong working relationship with the city of Cascade Locks to strengthen the possibility for economic development opportunities. He is also continuing to scope out areas where the port can tighten its belt without cutting jobs for any of its 40 to 50 permanent employees.

He currently resides in Battle Ground, Wash., with his wife, Julie, and their three children: Sarah, 16, Sean, 12, and Michael, 10. Although he is considering a relocation to Cascade Locks in the future, the Daughtrys are committed to letting their daughter, a junior, graduate from her home high school.

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