WALLA WALLA -- A former chief operating officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District office will oversee Port of Walla Walla projects in a newly created part-time position.
Paul Wemhoener was hired in March as the economic development agency's project manager. His first major undertaking is management of a new sewer system in Burbank involving a pipeline under the Snake River to transport wastewater to Pasco for treatment.
Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz touted Wemhoener's more than three decades with the Corps and his expertise in permitting as well as all phases of engineering and construction management.
The new position is part-time, up to 30 hours average per week per pay period with a wage of $40 per hour.
Kuntz said Wemhoener was such an ideal candidate that he did not think it necessary to advertise publicly for the job, nor was it required under Port procedures.
Commission President Paul Schneidmiller said the position's first major project is to help manage the Port's Burbank development, which is expected to be a huge undertaking with permits from eight or nine different agencies and ongoing phases for the Business Park.
Kuntz said he began scouting potential candidates for the new job shortly after the three Port commissioners discussed the idea at their annual retreat last November.
"I did some calling around and talked to some people in the industry prior to commissioners even approving it, trying to get an idea of who's out there, what are the skill sets," Kuntz said.
He said several names of highly recommended candidates came up. Kuntz said he, Walla Walla Regional Airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund and Port Economic Development Director Paul Gerola sat down with multiple people to discuss the position.
"That's when Paul (Wemhoener) came up," Kuntz said.
Kuntz said Wemhoener, whose experience includes operating eight multipurpose reservoir projects, leading a 350-person organization operating 27 dams and 230 miles of inland navigation channel, among other things, was the most qualified candidate for the job.