Coupeville Port hires former sub commander

Port of Coupeville consultant John Coyne’s birthday present arrived a month early.

He had hoped a replacement would be hired in November — around the time he celebrates his 85th birthday. That replacement would allow him to retire after spending nearly 30 years working for the port.

However, a replacement was hired earlier than expected during the Port of Coupeville’s monthly commissioner meeting Wednesday.

The commissioners named Jim Patton to the title of Executive Director of the Port of Coupeville.

Before coming to the Port, Patton worked for Lockheed Martin, most recently as a consultant involved with sonars.

He also enjoyed a 30-year career in the Navy, retiring in 1986 as a captain. During his career in the Navy, he held numerous positions including Submarine Commander in the Pacific Fleet, Commander of the Naval Ocean Systems Center, and he was a senior member of the State Department Policy and Planning Staff under Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Locally, and more recently, he is the president of the West Beach Road Association, Chairman for Water System Operations for the West Beach Road Association. He is also a member of the Environmental Health Assessment Team.

Patton said he applied for the position because he wanted to work closer to home.

“It’s time for me to get unwound from the work that I’ve been doing,” he said in a Wednesday afternoon interview.

He said the biggest challenge facing the Port of Coupeville is to find a balance between the historic character of the area and the port’s mission of economic development.

“The challenge is to find the balance with the rationale of the Port District,” Patton said.

He was one of two people the Port commissioners interviewed during a closed executive session at the end of the Port meeting.

Patton will be earning up to $50 an hour, capping off at $20,000 a year. His contract goes for two years. Patton said he will probably work 300 to 400 hours a year.

Michael Looram, an engineer who recently moved to Coupeville from Connecticut, was also interviewed for the position.

“Both candidates were very strong candidates, so it was a very hard decision to make,” said Commissioner Ed Van Patten.

He said Patton’s familiarity with the community was one of the deciding factors in the decision.

During the meeting one member of the public questioned the process the commissioners used in selecting the new director. “I’m just a bit disappointed that you didn’t advertise locally,” said Coupeville resident Jim Cavanaugh.

The Port advertised the position through WorkSource, which provides job listings on the Internet. Coyne said that 300 people viewed the ad and two other people applied for the position. However, he said those two candidates didn’t have the qualifications for the job.

Van Patten said the Port sent out letters to retired officers living in the community.

Looram said he heard about the job through word of mouth and from a previous newspaper article that appeared in the Whidbey News-Times.

With the new director on board, the transition that will allow Coyne to retire continues. The Port recently hired and accountant to handle the Port’s financial matters and hired someone to take minutes at monthly meetings.

One of the major hurdles that remain is moving the Port’s files out of Coyne’s home and into the port office. Van Patten said that he wants the transition done as soon as possible.

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