We Asked, They Answered: Meet Our New Port Commissioners

This month we introduced two new commissioners: Richelle Luther and Katy Coba. Both were nominated by Governor Kate Brown and confirmed by the Oregon State Senate.

Richelle Luther (left) is Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources and Corporate Affairs for Columbia Sportswear Company. Luther approaches business with a global mindset and seeks opportunities with organizations that strive for global economic growth and prosperity for all. Katy Coba (right) is Chief Operating Officer and Director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, and works with Gov. Brown, state agencies, the Oregon State Legislature and stakeholders to manage the enterprise of state government. Previously, Coba served as the Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

We caught up with the new commissioners to find out why they’re interested in serving on the Port Commission, what they’re most excited to learn, and what might surprise you about their background.

Why are you interested in serving on the Port Commission?

RL: The Port is such a unique asset to the State of Oregon and, as a life-long Oregonian, I appreciate the role it serves in terms of global trade, economic development and international travel, all of which are personal and professional passions of mine. Oregon has a lot to offer the world, and the Port serves as a window to the world and can be a driver of equitable economic development in the region – both very compelling missions.

KC: I am interested in serving on the Port Commission because I am committed to public service and this is an excellent way for me to continue to serve the state.  The Port plays an integral role in moving agricultural products to market.  Having grown up on a wheat ranch in Eastern Oregon, I am very aware of the importance of the port infrastructure for the whole state and the region.

What are you most excited to learn about the Port?

RL: I am excited to learn how the Port will continue to drive economic vitality in the region and continue to strive to ensure that opportunities presented will equitably serve all communities, with a focus on those who are historically underserved. 

KC: While I am familiar with Port operations at the 10,000 foot level, I am excited to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing the organization and how we can all work together to move the Port forward ensuring a viable future.

Have you worked with the Port previously in any capacity?

RL: I have not worked directly with the Port, other than that Columbia Sportswear Company is a concession at the airport and we’re a regular customer through the Port of Portland…not to mention plenty of personal experience with PDX, which is always good to come home to.

KC: Yes, I have worked with the Port previously. I served as an international trade policy advisor for Governor Kitzhaber in his first and second term in office. In 2003, I was appointed as the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. In both those roles, I worked closely with Port staff to support international trade opportunities and market Oregon agricultural products around the world.

Port staff will get to know you well over the next four years; what might they be surprised to learn about you now?

RL: I grew up in a small town in Oregon and my first job was working in a plywood plant. After college, I spent almost two years living in Japan. Whenever I’d get homesick, I would tune in to a television show in Japan that was very popular at the time: “With love, from Oregon.” It was a TV drama of Japanese immigrant strawberry farmers living at the base of Mt. Hood – like a postcard from home!

KC: As I mentioned earlier, I grew up on my family’s wheat ranch in Eastern Oregon. My summer job was driving wheat truck. For the last three years that I worked on our ranch, I drove our 18-wheeler truck hauling wheat from our farm to the Port of Umatilla. That wheat made its way down to the Port of Portland and ultimately to the Asian market. I like to think about wheat that I hauled in my truck ending up in a ramen shop in Tokyo!