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American Shipper

Houston Port Authority considers interim CEO

 

   The Port of Houston Authority Commission will hold a special session Monday to vote on hiring Leonard Waterworth as interim chief executive officer after Alec Dreyer, the current CEO last month indicated his intention to step down.
   Dreyer, a former energy industry executive, announced Dec. 13 that he planned to leave office once a replacement is found, telling the Houston Chronicle that he was frustrated by the political demands of the job.
   Dreyer’s three-year contract is scheduled to expire at the end of September. He succeeded Thomas Kornegay, who ran the port for 17 years.
   His announcement came shortly after he was cleared by local authorities of accusations that he misused the port’s tour boat for a dinner cruise with energy industry executives and submitted questionable expenses. Port Commission Chairman Jim Edmonds also came under fire last year for his previous work as a consultant for AECOM, which has had contracts with the port.
   “The frustrating part of it is – and maybe I was a little naive on this, I don’t know – I can see what needs to be done, but I can’t get those things done because of the politics,” Dreyer said in the Chronicle interview. “I wanted to apply some business techniques, some things I’ve done in the past and been successful at. We’ve done a lot of that, but fighting the constant battle of politics… is just not something I want to do.”
   Port Commissioner Elyse Lanier said Dreyer didn’t understand the need to consider the opinions of the seven port commissioners before making key decisions.
   The Harris County judge (commissioner) said Dreyer’s business style got him in trouble with the port commission when he terminated Argentina James, the port’s former vice president of public affairs, who was granted a $380,000 severance package.
   Dreyer said he has worked to change the port’s practices. Before he arrived, Dreyer said, the agency did not make basic business calculations when considering projects, pointing to the $108.4 million Bayport Cruise Terminal – which has failed to attract a regular cruise ship since it opened in 2009 – as a consequence of such “decision-making by intuition,” the Chronicle reported. 
   The commission now approves an annual budget, has a strategic plan, reviews monthly financial reports, is drafting a whistle-blower policy and discusses policy through several task forces, things Dreyer said did not happen before he was hired, according to the news account. 
   Waterworth is president of the Houston-Galveston chapter of the Society of Military Engineers and past president of Dannenbaum Engineering. He spent 26 years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and commanded the Galveston district between 2001 and 2004. That experience should prove valuable to the port, which works closely with the Corps of Engineers to coordinate dredging and other navigational improvements.
   The port commission on Monday will also discuss setting up a search committee to identify candidates to be the permanent port director.  — Eric Kulisch