Port of Victoria updating infrastructure

Turn basin for barges at the Port of Victoria.

With the Port of Victoria’s executive director set to retire next month, the commissioners charged with overseeing the port are searching for a replacement and examining ways to improve operations.

At a meeting Wednesday, port commissioners spent more than two hours in a private meeting interviewing potential replacements for Paul “Skip” Kaup, who was hired as director in 2014 and expected to retire at the end of February. Board chairman Robby Burdge declined to release the names of those being interviewed but said he hoped Kaup’s replacement could start in mid-February to ease the transition.

“Skip has been a blessing for the port,” Burdge said. “It’s a critical position from the commissioners’ perspective.”

Situated on more than 2,000 acres, the Port of Victoria is a transportation hub for businesses that ship products via railway, roadways and waterways that eventually lead to the Gulf of Mexico. The executive director oversees those operations – and manages a slew of other activities ranging from implementing budgets, overseeing major projects and working with the port’s employees.

To help find someone to fill that critical role, the port’s commissioners have hired Raymond Butler, a consultant who has worked on and off with the port and specializes in inland marine transportation. Butler has also been tasked with examining how the port can improve its operations – and he presented those findings to the board Wednesday afternoon.

“Where I’m going with this is: Let’s not fix something that ain’t broke,” said Butler, who said the Port of Victoria is poised to grow exponentially in the future along with the oil industry.

Among some of the recommendations were boosting the port’s outreach to Texas lawmakers, creating an association of businesses in Victoria’s barge canal and investing in software that could remind employees to undertake necessary tasks, including emergency response drills and testing fire pumps.

Perhaps the most important recommendation, Butler said, is upgrading the port’s document filing system.

“The filing systems is scattered; it’s all over the office. And to me, that’s not the way to run a ship or a port,” said Butler. “To me, it’s almost got to be run by someone with an OCD complex.”

The port commissioners listened to his recommendations, agreed to further review them and later offer feedback. The board chairman said the port had actually already started addressing some of the issues but wanted Butler’s unbiased opinion about what the port was doing right – and wrong.

“If we’re not asking the questions, we can’t provide the answers or the improvement,” said Burdge. “So we have to ask those questions and look in the weeds because at the end of the day, we’re responsible to taxpayers, the community and the entity.”

Marina reports on local government for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at mriker@vicad.com or 361-580-6511.

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Marina writes about housing, Hurricane Harvey recovery and local politics for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach Marina by emailing mriker@vicad.com or follow her on Twitter, @MarinaStarleaf.

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