Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, is seen addressing Washington County residents in this 2015 file photo. Gardner is leaving the position after 15 years. Credit: Johanna S. Billings / BDN

More than 15 years after he took the job, Chris Gardner has decided to leave his position as executive director of the Eastport Port Authority.

Exactly when he will leave has not been decided, though Gardner said he has already taken on some responsibilities with his new employer, Player Design Engineering. He expects to transition between the two jobs over the next several months, while the port authority looks for a new director.

Gardner will serve as director of operations for Player Design, an industrial company based in Presque Isle that, among other things, designs and builds heat-treating equipment for forest products such as wood chips and pellets. Such products have to be heat-treated to kill insects and microbes before they can be exported to foreign countries.

“My job at the port authority is probably one of the best jobs I’ve ever had,” said Gardner, who used to work full time as a police officer and continues to be a reserve officer for Eastport. “Leaving is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”

He said a big part of the decision is the urge to take on new challenges, but to also build upon his experience in port operations. He said has been familiar with Player Designs for a few years, since port authority officials approached the company about installing equipment at its Estes head terminal.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for me,” he said of his new job.

A resident of Edmunds Township, Gardner said he plans to continue serving as an elected Washington County commissioner and has no plans to move away. Gardner was first elected to the commission in 2004 and most recently was elected to another four-year term in 2020.

As executive director of the port authority, Gardner has overseen the export of paper products from the Baileyville mill, the importation of wind turbine blades, the reconstruction of the city’s downtown pier after it collapsed in 2014, and visits by large cruise ships — including the Riviera, which tied up in Eastport without any passengers in the summer of 2020 to wait out part of the global COVID pandemic.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....