Born in the small town of Apalachin, New York, Russell graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in Hotel Management. He also holds a master's degree in Service Management. During college, Russell worked as an intern in several quality chain restaurants. Upon graduation, he worked for various chain restaurants as General Manager and joined El Torito in San Jose as a Regional Training Manager. This position eventually brought him to the state of Oregon.
Married with two children, he moved across the river to Washington state and eventually left corporate life which had proven to be unfulfilling. After years of experience working for other restaurant companies, he established Mill Creek Pub in November 2011. With a menu focusing on comfort foods like hamburgers, steaks, and what eventually became a house favorite: Mill Creek Pub's Signature Macaroni and Cheese. Russell still prepares this dish occasionally whenever hired as a personal chef.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the world turned upside down for the restaurant industry. At that time, Russell was a Board Member of the Washington Hospitality Association, and over the years had built many lasting and meaningful relationships in the community. He recognized a lack of communication among his fellow restauranteurs and felt that instead of competing with one another, they now needed to unite against a common enemy for their survival: a global pandemic.
The group initially focused on supporting Mom-and-Pop establishments. As such, Russell personally committed to paying his employees, even if that meant incurring debt. Russell recognized that to be effective and see real change, the group needed the support of elected officials. Russell used his gift of connecting people including Mayors, Legislators, and City/County Councilors to start a monthly restaurant industry call. Eventually, they were able to open a channel of communication directly to the Governor's Office. By the late summer of 2020, they had over 100 people on monthly calls that are still continued today.
Today, Russell is a consultant, offering his expertise to aspiring chefs and restauranteurs. In addition, he offers a "Prep Cook Bootcamp," a four-day immersion course for those trying to enter or re-enter the industry. He is also a ServSafe Certified Instructor/Proctor to help leaders in the industry serve food safely.
- Restaurant Consultant: June 2007 - Present
- Owner/Operator: Mill Creek Pub, June 2011 to 2020
- Project Manager: Black Pearl Restaurant, December 2009 to April 2011
- Regional Director: Real-Mex Restaurants, Inc., 1994 to 2007
- General Manager: B & B Brew-Pub, Inc., 1989-1994
- General Manager: Restaurant Enterprises Group, 1985-1989
- Manager: Saga Corporation/Velvet Turtle Restaurant, 1984-1985
Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership Positions
- Past Board Chair: Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce
- Past Board Chair: Clark County YMCA
- Past Board Chair: Northwest Wine and Food Society
- Past Board Member: Clark College Foundation
- Past Board Chair: Cascadia Technical Academy Culinary Advisory Board. (formerly Clark County Skills Center)
- Past board Chair: Washington Hospitality Association Government Affairs Committee
- Board Member: Northwest Battle Buddies
- Mentor: WSU MAP Business Education Program
- Past Organizer: North County Food Bank Community Garden
Philanthropic Activities and/or Contributions
- Sponsorships/donations to numerous non-profits:
- ROCKSOLID Community Teen Center
- Urban Abundance
- Clark County Veterans Assistance Center
- Battle Ground Veterans Memorial Project
- Parks Foundation
- Battle Ground Rotary
- Washington State University Hospitality Business Management degree program of WSU Vancouver
- School of Piano Technology for the Blind
- Clark County Skills Center Foundation (Cascadia Technical Academy)
- Southwest Washington Contractors Association
- Ft. Vancouver National Trust
- Building Industry Association
- North County Food Bank
- Battle Ground Community Garden
- WSUV MAP program (Mentor)
- Meals on Wheels
- Grad Nights for various High Schools
- Battle Ground Mentor Collaboration
- Share House
- Sacred Heart Ministries
- Northwest Battle Buddies
- Children’s Center
Awards and Recognition
- 2017 Non-profit Network Excellence Community Support Award
- 2017 Sons’ of the American Revolution Silver Good Citizens Medal
- 2017 National Restaurant Association Restaurant Neighbor Award
- 2017 Battle Ground Education Foundation Honor Roll Outstanding Service
- 2017 The Columbian Best of Clark County Pub/Bar Winner
- 2016 US Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon Small Business Award
- 2016 Association of Washington Business Washington Connect Award
- 2016 The Columbian Best of Clark County Pub/Bar Winner
- 2016 Vancouver Business Journal “Best in Business”
- 2015 Leadership Clark County Community Leader Award
- 2015 Vancouver Business Journal “Best in Business” in 4 categories
- 2015 Clark County Public Health Community Award
- 2015 WASA Community Leadership Award
- 2015 The Columbian Best of Clark County Pub/Bar Winner
- 2014 Vancouver Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award (community service)
- 2014 Association of Washington Business Community Service Award
- 2014 Clark County Public Health Healthy Restaurant Certificate
- 2014 Vancouver Business Journal Business Growth Award "Fastest Growing Company 1-5 years"
- 2014 The Columbian Best of Clark County Pub/Bar Winner
- 2014 The Columbian Best of Clark County Finalist Categories: Family Value, Chicken
- 2014 Vancouver Business Journal “Best in Business”
- 2013 Vancouver Business Journal “Best in Business”
- 2013 The Reflector Readers’ Choice Award
- 2012 Vancouver Tourism Board "Tourism Professional"
- 2012 Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce "Business Person of the Year"
- 2012 Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce "Business of the Year"
- 2012 Vancouver Business Journal Finalist "Fastest Growing Company 1-5 years"
- 2012 Top Projects “Best Remodel” Southwest Washington Contractors Association, Builders Industry Association and Vancouver Business Journal
- 2011 City of Battle Ground Investing in the Community Certificate
- 2011 Vancouver Business Journal “Best Start Up Business”
- 2006 Real Mex "Outstanding Achievement in Controllable Profit"
- 2004 YMCA "Leadership Award"
- 2000 Real Mex "Presidents Club Award Winner"
Why did you decide to run?
My passion as Port Commissioner is economic development and creating jobs. The Port is the economic engine for our community. I have a decades long track record of being solutions-oriented. I have a 20-year history of promoting economic development and workforce development. My opponent is on record for banning oil and natural gas with no solutions to replace them. I believe that we can still balance our regions strength of low-cost energy and create new green jobs as technology improves to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
I am passionate about developing Terminal 1 and the public market. My multiple degrees (Bachelor of Science and Masters degrees) and hard work in the hospitality industry over the last 45 years give me valuable preparation to guide the development of this new public market.
Vancouver Lake needs coordinated, informed help to remain one of our region’s most important and loved assets. I hope to be a positive influence on the future of Vancouver Lake and reestablish the 2400-acre gem as destination for tourism and local recreation.
Three major issues facing the Port:
- Balancing growth and the environment: the Port of Vancouver must grow to compete with the numerous ports not only in our region, but on the West Coast, in Canada, and throughout the Circum-Pacific. But growth must be balanced with sustainability and a clean, safe environment that will benefit future generations.
- Guiding the I-5 Bridge project: the Port must be a major contributor to regional discussions and decisions regarding this large, essential project. We must work closely and productively with the public, stakeholder groups, analysts and consultants, and elected officials throughout the process.
- Transparency: the public must know what the Port is planning, why, when, and how. I am asked frequently by members of the public: what does a Port Commissioner do? I intend to make sure we answer this question consistently in all our processes.
What part should your district play in your area’s environmental health?
As the region’s engine of growth and commerce, the Port has an essential role in the region’s environmental health, including its air, water, animal and plant life, and quality of human life, specifically:
- Physical: to ensure we continue and improve on how we maintain and develop the landscape of the Columbia River protecting and preserving its history. Vancouver Lake is a prime example. We must bring all parties, including the various agencies having responsibility there, together in a coordinated effort that includes the highly informed stakeholders such as Friends of Vancouver Lake.
- Chemical: to ensure we continue to engage in vendor/partner, landlord/tenant relationships to use best practices in transporting bulks and other chemicals to ensure our lands and rivers will thrive in years to come. This is one of the Port’s unique and essential functions.
- Biological: to ensure with continue to develop new ways to treat rain run-off, sewer and waste to a neutral or beneficial status before release back into the environment. We must always stay vigilant as to our impacts on marine and terrestrial habitats. The Columbia River and Vancouver Lake are just two examples of the magnitude and importance of this challenge.
How if at all will the changing climate affect you port and its environment?
The Port has an exemplary plan in line with the state and federal government. My hope is we not only comply, but to become a leader in improving the environment. We can and must attract green business and industries to our region. We must work at the local, state, and federal levels to create jobs in “green wind”, hydrogen, micro-nuclear, biofuels and other green/renewable energy. It took over six years to bring soda ash, needed for green energy manufacturing, to our port. We need to assess and act on these opportunities now if we hope to accomplish our future climate goals, while remaining competitive.
I differ with my opponent in believing that we cannot be complacent about just keeping the green jobs we have. New opportunities will be developing starting now and expanding for the next decades, and I will make sure we assess and act on them.