Othello Port Commissioner Kenny Schutte not running for re-election in the fall

Aug. 23—OTHELLO — Kenny Schutte is opting not to run for re-election as a Port of Othello commissioner for District No. 1. Schutte said that he will serve until Jan. 1, 2024, leaving the position to one of the two candidates running in November.

"24 years goes by pretty quickly. I mean, I never look at it like that. But now I've decided to pass it off and get some new blood in here," said Schutte.

According to the Port of Othello's website, Schutte, a local farmer and businessman, first took office in 2000. Schutte said that he is stepping down because he feels like he's devoted a significant enough amount of time to the position.

"I was just going to do six years," said Schutte.

Schutte ended up continuing to run in the position because he wanted to see projects started by the Port finished, he said, along with the fact that the industrial area outside of Othello, where the Port owns property, was near Schutte's farm.

"It's kind of in my neighborhood," said Schutte. "That's where I farm, out there, so I kind of know the infrastructure, and I own some buildings out there. So I kind of thought I knew what the needs were as far as ... the properties."

Long-term decision-making about those properties and other Port business is important to the role of commissioner, said Schutte.

"I kind of think that's our responsibility out here," said Schutte. "You know, trying to find real estate, develop these wells and water towers and stuff that you're going to appreciate 50 years from now. You've got to have a little vision."

Schutte said that despite this long-term planning and more than two decades as a commissioner, he does not feel like he's accomplished much in the role.

"That's always my answer. There's so many roadblocks. There are so many environmental financing roadblocks," he said. "Yeah, there's a few things we've done. We've picked up some real estate, got some wells drilled, but you know ... It takes a lot of time. To operate by committee, it's not easy. When you're an entrepreneur, you get to make a decision in ten minutes, you know. So that's the difficult part for me. There's a lot of other things I wish we could have got done."

Even so, Schutte said that the Port of Othello is still in a good position.

"The port district's in great financial shape," said Schutte. "One thing I can actually say is that we have a really strong cash position ... which is almost kind of negative if you want financing because they want to see some debt. So that's why we don't qualify for a lot of financing, because we have all this cash on hand."

The Port of Othello traditionally has not taken on much debt in order to maintain its financial position, said Schutte.

"We have a really strong balance sheet here and, I mean, that's one thing I'm kind of proud of, but as far as getting a lot of stuff done it's a struggle," he said.

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com. Download the Columbia Basin Herald app on iOS and Android today.