NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — When the position of Newport Beach harbor master opened up, Paul Blank received a phone call.
He’d never thought of applying until he was encouraged to pitch himself. He had even helped hire the man who had made a surprise retirement announcement.
Once Kurt Borsting, who took the harbor master job in 2018, announced he’d be leaving his post, Blank got to thinking.
“I was surprised at how much coverage my skills and experience had with the job qualifications,” he said.
Blank’s qualifications span a broad list of harbor master duties. With about 35 years of experience in information technology and management, he’ll be tasked with organizing and updating a trove of information.
Among his duties will be properly identifying all the correct owners of 1,200 mooring permits in the harbor. While the city estimates the economic impact of the harbor could be in the tens of millions, it draws direct revenue of about $12 million.
An important source of money and city pride, the harbor has been battling unlicensed businesses, some congestion and unwanted noise. Anything from duffy boat rides to sport fishing pickups and drop offs. Blank, an avid boater himself, will lead a renewed enforcement effort.
“The whole driver for this is the fair use of a shared resource,” said Carol Jacobs, Newport Beach assistant city manager. “We’re trying to put everybody on an even playing field understanding parking is always going to be a horrible issue here.”
Blank has been a staple of the local business community, too. He owned and operated the Casa Laguna Inn and Spa for 10 years before selling it.
As the only full-time staffer, Blank will also be responsible for hiring seasonal staff.
But perhaps his biggest selling point for the job was his eight years of experience as a harbor commissioner. In his volunteer role, he helped rewrite and update hundreds of pages of municipal code for the harbor. It included dozens of community outreach meetings and discussions.
“My thought is I’ve always needed the best best of both worlds, a great boater and a great administrator,” Jacobs said.
Blank is the city’s third harbor master since the position was created in 2017 and the second to hold the job full-time.
“I really care about this harbor, and I really want to see it thrive,” Blank said.