Scott Keller, the Port of Benton’s longtime executive director, is retiring, the port announced Tuesday.
Diahann Howard, director of economic development and government affairs, will serve as interim executive director until a successor is named.
Keller indicated in a news release issued by the port that he was ready to step aside.
“I’ve done everything I wanted to do, now it’s someone else’s turn,” said Keller, who is 63 and had spent 30 years working for the port.
Keller’s retirement appeared to catch port officials and employees by surprise. David Billedeaux, the port’s attorney, said the port’s elected commission will meet in executive session Thursday to map out a process to name a successor.
Billedeaux confirmed that Keller is no longer working in the office.
The attorney said the port is following terms spelled out in Keller’s employment contract, which is 10 years old.
LEGAL ACTION AGAINST PORT
Keller is a named defendant along with the port’s three commissioners in protracted federal litigation with the Tri-City Railroad and its president, Randolph Peterson.
Peterson filed a whistleblower complaint on behalf of the U.S. government in federal court two years ago as the port moved to evict his company from port-owned tracks in Richland after accusing the railroad of mismanaging maintenance.
The lawsuit is pending. The port secured a $2.5 million package of grants and low-interest loansfrom the 2019 Legislature to repair two railroad crossings, one over the Yakima River and the other over Interstate 182.
Attempts to reach Keller by phone were unsuccessful.
Keller joined the port in 1989, serving as director of the port-owned Richland and Prosser airports. He also served as assistant executive director under former executive director Ben Bennett. He was promoted to the top job when Bennett retired.
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