Young Professional 2021: David J Billetdeaux

David Billetdeaux

David J. Billetdeaux

General Counsel
Port of Benton

Favorite book? Movie?
“Infinite Jest,” “No Country
for Old Men” (or “Die Hard,”
depending on the mood).

What thing would people
be most surprised to learn
about you?
I love cooking, watching
cooking shows, reading
cookbooks and developing
new recipes.

Favorite snack?
A toasted English muffin
with cheese, mustard, and
spicy nacho Doritos.

Favorite thing to do
in Tri-Cities?
Outdoor recreation and
enjoying beverages from
our favorite local wineries
and breweries.

Age: 36

Current city of residence: Richland

How long have you worked for the port? 4 years

Briefly describe your organization.
The Port of Benton drives economic growth, trade and tourism by providing quality infrastructure and multimodal transportation for businesses and the community.

The port was established in 1958 and was chartered to “promote industrial development and transportation, including general aviation, in Benton County.”

Education and certifications:
University of Washington: Bachelor’s in English and philosophy.

Seattle University: Juris Doctor (J.D.), cum laude.

Briefly describe your job and how you got into it: Prior to working at the port, I was a partner at the Cowan, Moore, Billetdeaux Law Firm in Richland.

My mentor, Tom Cowan, was the port’s outside counsel. I developed a relationship with the port, assisting it with developing new policies, working on public record requests and assisting with legal research into litigation issues.

I was asked by the port’s previous executive director to consider working for the port as general counsel.

Now that I have been at the port for four years, I can say that it was nothing like I thought it would be!

I have liaised with outside counsel and worked directly on litigation matters in front of the Benton County Superior Court, U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington (federal court), the Surface Transportation Board, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, Division III Court of Appeals and the Washington State Supreme Court, achieving victories for the port at every venue.

When not slogging through litigation, I research and develop policies to modernize the port and to try to develop the Port of Benton into a regional leader in the port industry. This role involves everything from human resources to commercial negotiations.

I am in the process of obtaining my Professional Port Manager certification, which is a multiyear effort to educate and develop port professionals on the intricacies of port management.

How did you earn your first dollar?
Honestly, my first dollar was earned doing chores around the house.

An “allowance” was not a given, but something to work for and be earned. From a young age, my family ensured that hard work was instilled in me. Aside from that, I had a number of jobs throughout high school.

I refereed youth basketball games, I worked for the Richland School District as a computer technician, and I worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories as a radiological and chemical sciences intern.

Did the pandemic affect your daily work life? If so, how?
I worked very closely with my executive director and interim director of finance at the start of the pandemic to guarantee that the port would not have to shut down or place any employees on furlough or other involuntary leave.

We quickly developed work from home policies and obtained laptops, webcams and other technologies that allowed for our work to continue uninterrupted.

I also developed policies that could help mitigate the very real economic cost to the port’s tenants.

As part of its mission, the port supports commercial properties that create jobs, provide community services and support the port’s financial needs, thereby reducing port reliance on property tax assessments from the district.

In addition, as a government agency, the port has equal legal mandate to be responsible stewards of public assets.

However, regional economic prosperity is linked to an area’s ability to prevent, withstand and quickly recover from major disruptions or economic shocks to its economic base.

Establishing economic resilience in the Port of Benton economy requires the ability to anticipate risk, evaluate how that risk can impact key economic assets, and build a responsive capacity.

Because of that, I helped develop an Emergency Support Function for business and industry as an all-hazards framework for economic recovery and resilience.

The plan includes longer-term, pre-emptive, steady-state initiatives that sought to bolster the port’s ability to withstand, mitigate and/or avoid economic shock.

Additionally, when economic shock occurs, the plan’s economic relief policies address the changing world through business recovery and retention mitigation measures which, applied through sustained and ongoing efforts, increase the speed by which the overall port community returns to a thriving economy.

At the same time that we were investing in our technologies and our people, we were working hard to make sure that these unexpected expenses did not upend the port’s annual budget. Through hard work and thinking outside of the box, we were able to leverage various grants to make sure that every dollar spent was either matched or forgiven.

On top of all of that, we also moved to Zoom commission meetings to ensure that our staff, elected commission and the public could safely stay involved with local government actions.

What was your dream job as a child?
As a child, I wanted to either be in the NBA, or be a computer programmer.

Opposite ends of the spectrum there, I know! While I did play basketball extensively throughout my youth, the need to work during high school ended my basketball career right before lack of athletic prowess would have.

I took one extra step toward my other dream job, which entailed going to the University of Washington (Go Huskies!) on a full-ride scholarship as a National Merit Scholar within the computer science program.

No offense to the computer programmers out there, but my own inability to work alone in a basement while surviving on a steady diet of energy drinks and pizza led me to an early collegiate pivot toward English and philosophy.

Tell us about your community involvement/community service.
I have served on the CBC Foundation as a board member for the past six years.

Last year, I was appointed as the planned giving chair for the board. Additionally, I am an ex officio member of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Benton Franklin County Bar Young Lawyers Division.

I am a past member of the Richland Rotary, and previously provided pro bono legal assistance via the Benton Franklin Legal Aid Society.

My wife and I have dressed up to hand out Milk-Bone treats and candy at the local animal rescue Trunk-or-Treat events, we pick up trash and waste that we come across whilst recreating, support and encourage proper use of public lands, support local and small businesses first, and really, anywhere there is a need to fill, or role I am asked to assist with, I try to make myself available to do so.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
I think it’s impossible to truly maintain a work-life balance within our current society, as technology becomes ever more helpful but also ever more invasive.

I try to combat this by engaging in a number of activities that force me to unplug for periods of time.

These include long distance road cycling (I’ll be participating in my fifth Seattle to Portland bike ride this year), hiking with my wife and traveling. Sure, after these activities, I almost religiously check my work phone or email to make sure that there are no fires to put out (figuratively or literally), but I am able to check out and enjoy the activities as they are occurring!

Do you have family? Pets?
I married my love, Cara Hernandez, during the pandemic. We got up extremely early, hiked Mt. Rainer in the dark with nothing but headlamps and the light of the moon to guide us, and had our ceremony at sunrise in front of a gorgeous backdrop.

Our animal children are Dottie, an always ready to hike mix of shepherd/spaniel/terrier/poodle/boxing herding mix (according to Wisdom Panel), and Simon, our lovable rescue cat. We unfortunately lost our cuddly English bulldog, Lolo, to cancer in February of this year.

What brought you to the Tri-Cities?
Did you grow up here?
I grew up in the Tri-Cities, attending Sacajawea Elementary and Hanford middle and high schools. I left for undergrad and law school in Seattle and moved home to help out during the economic downturn in 2011.