March 28–Bob Portiss has been named the 2017 Progressive Citizen of the Year.
The Progressive Citizen award recognizes exemplary individuals who have made significant contributions to local economic development and the quality of life.
“To tell you the truth, I was kind of blown away by that (announcement of his being named the Progressive Citizen) — I can’t tell you what an honor it is for there to be that kind of sentiment towards me — it’s very humbling,” Portiss said. “It’s hard to comment on what I personally felt my contribution (to the region) has been — that’s something probably other people could do better than I could.
“I will say that in order for me to have been able to do the job I’ve done — the job I’m credited with doing — I’ve been blessed to have a strong board behind me, the Tulsa-Port of Catoosa Port Authority. Any time I’ve thought about an initiative for the Port, for the Tulsa Metro, or the Rogers County area, without the support of the Port Authority, it would have never happened.
“What I do — for me to have been able to be as — if you want to think of it as ‘progressive’ — as I have been wouldn’t have been possible without the members of the Port Authority behind me. It takes a team,” he said.
After earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics from North Dakota State University, Portiss first joined the Port of Catoosa in March 1973 as Manager of Traffic and Sales and Assistant Secretary of the Port of Catoosa Facilities Authority, the Port’s Industrial Trust.
The following year, he accepted a senior management position with Landmark Land Company to gain what would soon prove to be invaluable land development experience.
While at Landmark, he was based in both Arizona and New Orleans, La., where he managed commercial and industrial properties.
Portiss returned to the Port in November 1977, where he resumed duties in his previous position. Two years later, he was promoted to Director of Marketing and Transportation, and soon thereafter to Deputy Port Director.
In July 1984, Portiss was elevated to the position of Port Director — only one of four persons up to that point who held this position since the Port first opened in December 1970.
Portiss is proud to claim each of his predecessors as mentors, who, together with numerous persons who have served on the Port Authority Board from both Rogers County and the City of Tulsa, have helped guide his professional development of the past three decades.
“And of course, I credit working for the Port with introducing me to the love of my life, Lynda, whom I met at a big get-together held by my friend (former Oklahoma Governor) George Nigh back in 1985,” Portiss said.
Portiss is a five-term chairman of the National Waterways Conference in Washington, DC, and has also served for several years as the chairman of the Inland Waterway Committee of the National Transportation Research Board. He further has served six years as a member of the National Marine Board.
For his leadership on the McClellan-Kerr waterway, Portiss has been named a “Water Pioneer” by the State of Oklahoma.
In August 2009, Portiss was awarded the Bronze de Fleury Medal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Bronze de Fleury Medal was established during the early years of the Corps to honor individuals who have provided significant contributions to Army engineering.
In October 2013, he was named “Communicator of the Year” and received a Bronze Quill award from the Tulsa chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.
In October 2015, he was named a “Champion of Change” in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC., and was honored as a leader who has devoted time and efforts to developing innovative ways to use transportation to help his community reach new heights.
As of February 2017, Portiss’s title has changed from port director to port director emeritus as he transitions into the next stage of his life — retirement.
“It’s been so fun for me to have gotten to meet and work with the people I have — just the best people in the world, simply amazing people,” he said. “So many people don’t have that opportunity, and I’m thankful to have had the chance to do what I’ve done for the past thirty-some years and to have known the greatest people in the world.”