Ex-Corps COO on board with Port

Paul Wemhoener was hired earlier this month for the new project manager position.

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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 as the economic development agency's project manager March 12, Port officials said. His first major undertaking is management of a new sewer system in Burbank, including installation of a pipeline under the Snake River to transport wastewater for treatment into Pasco.

Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz said Wemhoener was the leading candidate for the job after spending well over three decades with the Corps of Engineers. Kuntz specifically touted Wemhoener's expertise in regulatory permitting as well as all phases of engineering and construction management.

"He has the exact skill set that's really going to be beneficial to the Port," Kuntz said.

He said Wemhoener was such an ideal candidate that he did not think it necessary to advertise publicly for the job.

The new position is part-time, up to 30 hours average per week per pay period with a wage of $40 per hour.

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 came up of highly recommended candidates. 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. "We were just really impressed with having someone who used to be the COO for the Corps wanting to work here."

The creation of the position was approved during the Port's March 8 meeting. Schneidmiller asked at the time that a hire not be made until the next week in case others in the community should come forward with an interest in the position. Kuntz said Wemhoener was offered the job four days later on a Monday -- the same day that at least one local resident submitted a r?©sum?© to Schneidmiller.

Schneidmiller said he passed on the r?©sum?© to Kuntz, who under the Port's managing authority resolution had license to make the hire. By the time Kuntz received it, the job was Wemhoener's. Kuntz maintains Wemhoener, whose work history 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.

"It's not full-time and we were looking for a person with a specific skill set that's fairly technical in nature," Kuntz said. "We have a person that has a very impressive r?©sum?© that fits the skill set perfectly."

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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