State port hiring executive search firm to find director

calee@sunherald.comDecember 29, 2012 

GULFPORT -- The Port of Gulfport plans to hire an executive search firm to find its new director.

Seven firms responded to the port's request for proposals to conduct the search, port spokesman Denton Gibbes said. He said a committee of two commissioners -- John Rester and E.J. Roberts -- will score responses from the firms, interview the top candidates and recommend one of the firms for the search to the full five-member commission.

The executive search firm will set criteria for an executive director, based on past search criteria and the port's needs, and solicit candidates for the job. The commission, Gibbes said, is likely to select a director from a list of candidates the executive search firm recommends.

The new executive director will manage a staff of 28 and a budget that included $92 million in total projected expenses for the fiscal

year that ended June 30.

Previous Executive Director Don Allee resigned in October after 11 years on the job. The port had come under fire over post-Katrina restoration and expansion of the West Pier, a project that began in 2008 and is being funded with about $600 million from the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

Port commissioners recently revised the plans to create more room for new tenants that could generate the 1,200 jobs the port is required to create in exchange for the federal money. Commissioners also decided against plans to elevate the West Pier to 25 feet above sea level. The time and expense involved, they felt, would not pay off in terms of economic benefits and job creation.

A new executive director will be needed to see the expansion through as currently planned, work with the port's four tenants during the transition and secure new tenants, and continue to push for federal funding that would return the Gulfport Ship Channel to its authorized depth of 36 feet. The port hopes more business on the modernized West Pier eventually will justify federal study of an even deeper ship channel.

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