Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 14, 2014

Jack Louws Defends Cliff Strong Hire

County Executive Jack Louws

County Executive Jack Louws

County Executive Jack Louws added his thoughts to controversy around hiring Cliff Strong at the Whatcom County Planning Department. Here is the complete text of his response to the issue:

To everyone concerned with the hiring of Cliff Strong,

I am ultimately responsible for all new hires in Whatcom County, and as Executive this responsibility has been delegated in most instances to the Department Director responsible for the employee, unless it is a senior management position directly tied to the Executive’s office. This is the situation as it relates to Mr. Strong’s employment with Whatcom County. Sam Ryan, PDS Director and her senior staff made the decision to hire Mr. Strong. I have researched the allegations made about Mr. Strong, as this is what I have found out.

Mr. Strong sought employment with the county through a job posting in a local paper. It was an open public process, and he pursued us as an employer. He was interviewed, along with others, for the position left vacant with the resignation of Peter Gill from PDS in 2013.

Mr. Strong identified his employment with AMEX and explained his role with the GPT project both in his application and more extensively during the interview process.

Yesterday I asked Mr. Strong to respond to the question I posed to him concerning his involvement with the wetland violation at the GPT site. This is Mr. Strong’s response;

“While working for AMEC, I was assigned to the GPT project as their lead planner for the limited purposes of submitting and processing their Whatcom County land use permits. I was not the Project Manager. Nor was I involved in the geotech permitting until after PIT started their geotech exploration and testing, as they thought they had all the appropriate permits based on their geotech’s advice (AMEC was not their geotech consultant). We at AMEC were just as surprised by the evening news as everyone else. Once it occurred, PIT asked AMEC to investigate what happened and work with County PDS to properly remedy it. Thus, I worked with PDS to figure out what had happened and how best to legally correct it.”

Mr. Strong’s qualifications are extensive with his work history well documented for full evaluation, and I look forward to working with him as a Senior Planner for Whatcom County.

I trust he will be an impartial, fair, and professional planner in all of his job assignments with Whatcom County.


Jack Louws

So despite being “our planner on the Gateway Pacific Terminal project”, Strong contends he was not to blame for the million dollar fine assessed to the Gateway Pacific Terminal for illegal clearing and construction. From my perspective, the more relevant issue is whether Strong will be working on anything related to the GPT, and my public records request concluded that he was not, so I consider the issue settled.



  1. Riley, you do nice work.

  2. Riley,

    Will Cliff Strong be working with oil train & refinery permits? Environmental or water permits?

    What are Strong’s exact job description duties? How many people applied for this county job? How many people were interviewed?

    What is Strong’s history before working for GPT and PIT? Any other information about who is company worked for?

    Best wishes,


  3. They admitted in open court that they didn’t have the permits in hand to begin land clearing so did Louws just hire a liar?
    The guy in charge of securing those permits had to have played a part in the decision to begin work – who else would they have turned to?
    The whole thing stinks of cronyism
    and explains the county’s reluctance to assess the illegal land clearing activity the fines and 6-year development moratorium any other violator would have faced.
    Poor judgment all around and a good reason to distrust the entire process surrounding GPT.

  4. Riley wrote: “From my perspective, the more relevant issue is whether Strong will be working on anything related to the GPT, and my public records request concluded that he was not, so I consider the issue settled.”

    That’s disappointing: with a little more effort you could come up with a principle or two to defend. Cliff’s hiring is clearly a case of the revolving door through which regulators and regulated pass, and on each side work to undo what they do on the other side of regulations. Only those with principles and loyalties for hire can do that.

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