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Port hires harbormaster to oversee small boat harbor

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FREELAND — The Port of South of South Whidbey hired a new harbormaster for Langley’s small boat harbor last week.

The news that Rick Brewer from Clinton got the job over 14 other candidates couldn’t come too soon for some.

With the port scheduled to take over the harbor on Jan. 1, some people have wondered when the port would establish a presence there — Brewer’s hiring answers that question.

Brewer, an experienced local ship’s master and marine instructor, will be starting work for the port on Nov. 3, anticipating what officials hope is a seamless transition from the city of Langley. He will earn an annual salary of $40,800.

Brewer has over 30 years of maritime experience including boatyard operator and licensed master credentials, with additional responsibilities for administration, crew training, budget and payroll and safety issues on various assignments.

“Rick has a strong interest in training and instruction for crew operations, and is looking forward to expanding local opportunities for marine vocational training,” said port manager Ed Field.

“The commissioners were especially impressed with his range of technical capabilities and strong commitment to improving conditions and operations at the harbor,” Field added.

The interview process was conducted by Field, Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle and Oak Harbor’s harbormaster, Mack Funk.

“Mack brought some valuable expertise and gave us some good questions to help us make the right choice,” Filed noted.

Seitle said Brewer was his clear choice for two reasons.

“First his background as a sea captain on small cruise vessels — precisely the sort of business we hope to attract — plus he’s a local man,” Seitle said. The other prime candidate was from Oregon.

The idea of working locally has great appeal for Brewer. His wife is an operating room nurse in Everett and the chance to settle down close to home made the decision a no-brainer.

“I’ve lived here five years but I know more people in Alaska than on South Whidbey and I want to change that,” he said. “I applied before the position was even announced and I’m looking forward to getting down to business.”

He said the position offers him similar challenges that he experienced as a sea captain, such as working with vendors, contractors, port officials, crew management and the ever-changing turnover of guests on board his ships.

In fact, his personal knowledge and involvement with the regional network of tour and charter commercial vessel operators was seen as a real plus toward the commissioner’s goal of attracting a variety of commercial vessels into Langley.

Brewer has captained a number of small cruise ships and belongs to the Northwest Captain’s Association. His last command was an American Safari expedition yacht in Alaska.

One question he was asked during his interview was how he felt the port should present itself to the community in the future.

“I told them we need to be as realistic as possible in our goals; promise less, but deliver more,” he said. “We have to be a creditable public agency.”

Brewer said that, though much depends on the outcome of the Nov. 4 ballot measure regarding port improvements, his job will be to make the harbor a great place for people to visit, by land or sea.

“I see the marina as a place to hold a wedding, for kids to fish off the end of the dock and their parents to launch kayaks into the water,” he said. “A nice place to just take a stroll.”

As a skipper of private boats, often Brewer took passengers to places like La Conner and Poulsbo for the day or an evening out.

“Langley fits the bill perfectly as that kind of destination.”

Field said the port was very pleased that they were able to choose from a wide range of capable candidates for this critical position.

“I think we’ve made the right choice and Rick is correct; it’s time to get down to business,” he said.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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