Portiss recognized for waterway navigation advocacy

Muskogee Phoenix

March 04–Muskogee City-County Port Authority board members honored Port of Catoosa Director Emeritus Bob Portiss and the work he has done throughout his career promoting inland waterway navigation.

Port of Muskogee Director Scott Robinson described Portiss as “a leader of our waterways group” and a personal mentor. Robinson, who was joined by Port Authority Chairman Edwin Gage and Chief Operating Officer Steve Taylor of Oakley’s Port 33, presented Portiss with a nautical-themed plaque to commemorate the occasion.

Robinson said Portiss, who was tapped in 1984 as director of the port that lies at the upper reaches of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, deserves credit for the “unique bond” shared by public and private ports in Oklahoma. Robinson said that is atypical for ports in other regions.

“When you go around the country and talk to other commanders at the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers and directors at other ports, they will tell you the public and private ports in Oklahoma have a unique bond and work very well together,” Robinson said. “That is very shocking for people to hear … because they are used to dealing with everybody working at cross-purposes — Bob deserves the credit for that.”

Portiss, a five-term chairman of the National Waterways Conference and 2009 recipient of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bronze de Fleury Medal, reminisced about his early days as the only port director in the state. During that time, Portiss worked closely with the local port authority and pleaded with board members to hire a director for the Port of Muskogee.

“I was the only port director in the state of Oklahoma and, quite frankly, I needed some help,” Portiss said, citing his promise to train a director if one was hired. “I did not know Scott that well …, but over the past 26 years he has almost become like a brother to me.”

Robinson said Portiss stayed “true to his word” and “shared every bit of information I could have ever wanted.” Both men have continued to work together closely on local, regional and national levels as advocates “for our waterway industry.”

In addition to numerous other honors, Portiss was named a “Champion of Change” in October 2015 during a ceremony at the White House in Washington. The honor was awarded in recognition of his leadership — and devotion of time and effort — in developing “innovative ways to use transportation to help his community reach new heights.”

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

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.