Port of Benton names 4 finalists for executive director job

Four finalists have been selected and interviewed for the Port of Benton executive director position.

Port of Benton commissioners and John Hodgson from the Prothman search firm interviewed the candidates Oct. 22, but did not make a final decision. The commissioners asked the search firm to conduct additional background on the candidates.

The four candidate finalists are:

  • Brian Dansel, Northwest regional director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overseeing three separate agencies in six states. Prior to that, he was the Washington and Idaho state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. In 2017, he served as special assistant to the secretary of agriculture at the USDA. Dansel was a Washington state senator from 2013-17, and a Ferry County commissioner from 2011-14. He has an associate of arts and applied sciences degree in management from Walla Walla Community College.
  • Stuart Dezember has been with the Port of Benton for more than 15 years, serving as director of finance and auditor from 2003-07 and from 2008 to the present. He was also a tax manager for Moss Adams LLP in Spokane and early in his career was a staff Accountant for Christensen, King & Associates in Richland. Dezember has a bachelor of science degree in accounting from Central Washington University and an associate of arts degree in general studies from Columbia Basin College. He is a certified public accountant.
  • Wade Farris was most recently city administrator for the city of Gig Harbor, following his service as city administrator in Othello from 2013-18. Prior to that, he was commander/major general with the Air Force Reserve at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. He was an officer in the active duty Air Force for nearly 12 years and was with the Air Force Reserve as an officer and Government Service employee for 27 years. Farris has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Alabama, and a master’s degree in organizational management and public administration from Ashford University.
  • Diahann Howard has been the director of economic development and governmental affairs for the port since 2006. Prior to that, she was with the city of Richland, from 1999-2006, serving first as marketing specialist for the Office of Economic Development, then as economic development manager. Howard was also technical assistance manager for the Tri-Cities Enterprise Association in Richland from 1997-99. She has been serving as interim executive director of the Port of Benton. She has a bachelor of arts degree in international affairs from Eastern Washington University.

The port could make a final decision at the next regular commission meeting on Nov. 13. Results were not available at press time.

Scott Keller, the port’s longtime executive director, retired June 1. He earned an annual salary of $168,429.


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