WALLA WALLA — Port of Walla Walla Commissioner Paul Schneidmiller stepped into office when a new airport terminal building was being built, and will apparently leave on the heels of expanded rail service.
The more than two-term commissioner and current president said he will not seek re-election this year for his District 1 seat for the economic development agency.
“It is a privilege to serve on the Port of Walla Walla Commission and a rewarding experience,” Schneidmiller said in an announcement. “I have appreciated our community’s support and have especially valued the many ideas, comments and concerns presented to me over my 13 years on the Commission.”
Schneidmiller, owner of World Wide Travel, joined the commission in June 2000 when he was selected to finish the term vacated by Wes Colley, who resigned the seat at the time to accept a banking position in Spokane. Schneidmiller was then elected to his first term the next year and won re-election again in 2007 for another six-year term that ends this year.
Now at 60, he said he believes it’s time for new representation to serve District 1, which includes more than half of the city of Walla Walla and the state line area.
“What I wanted was to go in and serve and hopefully leave the organization in a better way than when I began. I think we were successful in that,” he said this morning.
“I really do believe you need fresh ideas and different perspectives. That’s what does make an organization prosper and grow.”
The announcement comes just ahead of the filing period for office, which opens Monday.
Schneidmiller said he will depart on what he called a “high point” for the Port, having overcome recent years of citizen concerns over transparency to enter into a time of renewed energy for development.
“Economic development in Walla Walla is challenging. We have to be able to separate ourselves from other competitors,” he said. “... There are a lot of projects out there that we’re working on.”
When he started at the Port he was able to have a hand in the completion of a major construction of the new Walla Walla Regional Airport terminal.
Among highlights since then are widening of U.S. Highway 12; construction of five winery incubator buildings; work on task forces and coalitions that have represented retention of jobs at the Washington State Penitentiary, Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center and retention of air service; recruitment of the private label juice manufacturer Cott Beverages; development of the Burbank Business Park; and construction of the Railex facility and its recently completed wine storage warehouse to speed rail delivery across the country.
The time in office has also been fraught with periods of criticism from residents about errors on agreements over the years — including a miscalculation in the purchase price when Key Technology bought its building from the Port and when the Port leveraged Federal Aviation Administration funds to buy farm land not entirely located in the runway clear zone area.
Criticism also included frustration about the Port not having audio recorded minutes of its meetings. Schneidmiller said the agency was able to address all of the issues — and even installed sophisticated recording technology for those wanting to access the meetings digitally. He believes the attention to detail has gone a long way to restore trust with the public.
“I think we made some great strides there,” he said. “I think that is a continual process.”
Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8321.