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Deputy director hired at Port of Muskogee

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Muskogee Phoenix
muskogeepheonix.com
March 17, 2016
D.E. Smoot | Phoenix Staff Writer

A Muskogee native who never imagined he would return home due to his naval and maritime career began work this week as the Port of Muskogee's first deputy director.

Chris Williams, who is nearing the completion of his doctoral dissertation on port governance, served 30 years with the U.S. Navy. He started out in 1989 as a boiler technician after he enlisted, then worked his way up the ranks as commanding officer and, most recently, program analyst.

Williams was hired as part of what Port Director Scott Robinson described as "a reasonable succession plan," the pieces of which began falling into place a little more than a year ago. The hire, he said, "turned out to be one of those serendipitous things that just happen."

"Chris called me up just out of the blue one day and said ... he wanted to come out and see what the port looks like," Robinson said. "We spent about two or three hours because he was so interested in everything and ... impressed with with everything we are involved in out here."

Williams said his interest was piqued by his search "for dissertation ideas" regarding maritime policy as it relates to the governance of ports. Williams said he also was curious about the Port of Muskogee because, as a child growing up here, he was unaware of its existence.

During subsequent conversations, Robinson told Williams he "ought to apply for deputy port director," a suggestion that was laughed off at first. But Williams inquired a few days later about the sincerity of Robinson's offer, and things progressed from there.

"We were in that frame of mind, trying to put together a reasonable succession plan, and that's how it went from there to here," Robinson said, recounting the events that led up to Williams' application for the position. "He is a strong prospect for sure — just into his first few days here it's obvious that he is a very strong individual with a lot of character and experience."

Williams said the focus of his doctoral studies, which is being completed through the public administration program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is the development of a model for seaport governance. His research, he said, is something that can be applied to inland waterway ports, as well.

"Most of our ports are public ports, meaning they are assets for taxpayers and ... should benefit the region, " Williams said. "But how well does it do that? We really don't have a model to measure that, and that is what I am trying to do — to take the first steps toward developing that model."

Williams' focus on seaports in his dissertation was necessitated by a lack of historic data for ports located along inland waterways. Inland ports, he said, do not get the attention they deserve from policy makers due to an antiquated business model developed by railroad companies, which historically owned the seaports.

"Our country is an island nation, and it was built as an island nation where the rails actually owned the seaports in the beginning ... and carried goods from there," Williams said. "It wasn't a good model at the time, and we are suffering from that today."

Williams said he is looking forward to his new job at the port. As far as taking the helm as port director when Robinson decides it's time to retire, Williams said he plans "to take it one day at a time to see how I fit in with it and see how he (Robinson) likes me."

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

Source:  http://www.muskogeephoenix.com/news/deputy-director-hired-at-port-of-muskogee/article_801ff028-c132-55d6-afbc-5679f171fe0c.html

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