Port of Port Angeles director seeks new role as part-time project manager

Karen Goschen to stay on until replacement can be identified

Karen Goschen.

Karen Goschen.

PORT ANGELES — Outgoing Port of Port Angeles Executive Director Karen Goschen would begin working part time for the port after commissioners choose her replacement under a proposal they plan to review, the board decided Tuesday.

Goschen is hashing out specifics with a Gig Harbor consultant.

Once a new executive director is hired, Goschen — the former port finance director who became its top administrator during a difficult period for the district in 2016 — will resign from the position to devote more time to taking care of her ill sister, she said.

Commissioners did not determine a time line for Goschen’s resignation or for selecting a replacement, although Goschen said later she hopes her successor is named in three or four months.

That same consultant, Jeannie Beckett of The Beckett Group, would help the board select a successor.

Commissioner Steven Burke, chosen Tuesday by board colleagues Colleen McAleer and Connie Beauvais to continue as panel president, will hash out the details of that contract with Beckett.

All three commissioners said they understood Goschen’s decision.

Goschen said she hopes transition to a new 20-hour-a-week position as a project director.

To choose her successor, commissioners said the identities of up to five finalists would become public.

The goal should be “some community input, some community involvement,” McAleer said.

“Maybe it’s the questions we ask. I know this is a commission decision. They’ll be working for us, and we’re the ones responsible to the public. So a good pick is our win, and a bad pick is our failure. It’s on our shoulders.”

Goschen declined to give more details on her sibling’s condition.

Her Dec. 28 resignation letter is in the agenda packet under “Agendas and Minutes” at portofpa.com.

“I talked with you and shared the struggle that I’m going through as far as having to accept that there will be no miracle for my sister, and that there are not enough hours in the day for me to both lead the port in the way that I want to lead the port, and being there for my sister in the way I want to be with her, so I very much appreciate your support,” she told commissioners Tuesday, her voice cracking with emotion.

Goschen, who earns $170,000 a year and said she commonly works a 60-hour week, has been stepping away since mid-June from managing the port’s operating budget, which this year is $8.4 million.

Day-to-day operations have been increasingly steered by Deputy Executive Director John Nutter, who was delegated executive director authority in mid-June, giving him as well as Goschen the power to sign contracts worth less than $50,000.

He said $1,000 a month was added to his $135,000 annual salary.

“I haven’t taken any major actions under that delegation of authority, and Karen and I have stayed in constant communication and continued to work together,” Nutter said Tuesday in an interview.

Burke said after the meeting that Goschen would continue as an employee, not a contractor or consultant.

He praised her work on ongoing projects, saying, “we don’t want to upset that apple cart too much.”

Beauvais said she appreciated Goschen’s willingness to continue working on those projects.

McAleer said the morale and port internal practices “have done a complete 180” in the nearly 10 years since Goschen has been with the port.

“Such a huge element of that has been Karen Goschen,” McAleer said.

Goschen, who has been negotiating on the port’s behalf on Western Harbor cleanup issues and touted her experience in participating in successful lawsuits against environmental insurance companies that resulted cleanup-cost coverage, said she helped to improve relationships with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and pointed to working with Beauvais on holding the state Department of Natural Resources accountable on meeting sustainable timber-harvest goals.

“One of the advantages for me when I look at the challenges in front of me is that I truly believe I can continue to contribute to the port, and it also gives me something to work on where I know I can solve a problem, I can come up with good ideas, I can accomplish something concrete,” she said.

“And so it’s a safe harbor for me, very different than the struggles that I have in supporting my sister, where there are no easy answers, and I can’t solve the problem.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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