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Port of Tacoma selects five finalists for port director job

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on May 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
May 27, 2010 4:11 pm

The Port of Tacoma Commission today narrowed its search for a new executive director to five finalists including interim port director John Wolfe.

The finalists have wide-ranging experience from leadership of a statewide ports authority to the presidency of a truck line. The commission plans in-person interviews next month when the candidates’ schedules permit.

Commission President Don Johnson said the commission has targeted naming a new director by the end of the month. The pay range for the job is $200,000 to $240,000 a year.

The five finalists are:

Bernard S. Groseclose . Groseclose served as executive director of South Carolina Ports Authority for 12 years before resigning in January, 2009. His resignation came unexpectedly during his semi-annual review session with his board, according to media reports at the time.

His resignation from the $264,000-a-year post happened during a period when local ports had seen major volume declines and the ports’ largest client, Maersk Line, was threatening to move.

Groseclose said at the time he resigned because the job was no longer as rewarding as it had once had been. References gave Groseclose high marks for his management abilities, a principal with the search firm Shey-Harding told the commission.

Ned LaGoy. LaGoy is vice-president and general manager of Sea Star Shipping in Puerto Rico. The search firm praised his community involvement and sales background.

As a Sea Star executive, LaGoy has close ties to one of the Port of Tacoma’s larger clients, Totem Ocean Trailer Express. TOTE and 90 percent of Sea Star are owned by Seattle’s SaltChuk Resources. TOTE and Sea Star are so-called “Jones Act shipping lines.” That act prohibits foreign ships with foreign crews from providing service between U.S. ports. TOTE serves Anchorage from Tacoma. SeaStar services San Juan from Jacksonville. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory.

LaGoy also formerly worked for Horizon Lines, another Port of Tacoma customer. Horizon provides similar service to TOTE.

Ali Nikkhoo. Nikkhoo has an extensive background with shipping lines around the world. According to his on-line resume, Nikkhoo worked as a senior manager for Sea-Land Service and its successor, Maersk Line for 24 years. Sea-Land and Maersk were once major Port of Tacoma clients until Maersk moved last year to Seattle.

In early 2001, he bought a Long Beach, Calif. trucking company, Honor Truck and Transfer. He sold that trucking line recently. Nikkhoo holds a civil engineering degree from Lamar University.

Brian Boyle. Boyle is vice president of operational excellence and engineering with terminal operator with Ports America in the San Francisco Bay area. During his career, he has held several terminal operations leadership roles in both Northern and Southern California.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from the California Maritime Academy.

Commissioner Don Meyer, who seconded the motion to add Boyle to the finalists’ list, said he was particularly impressed with Boyle’s background in creating efficient terminal operations and managing major terminal construction projects.

John Wolfe. Wolfe has served at the Port of Tacoma’s interim executive director since executive director Tim Farrell left day-to-day operations of the port in his hands Jan. 1.

Farrell’s resignation, effective Monday, came after cost and schedule issues emerged in the port’s ambitious project to build a new terminal for new client NYK Lines. That project was canceled after the shipping line said weaker business necessitated it operate from a smaller terminal and the port realized it would not be able to complete the planned terminal on time. NYK Line will lease space at the port’s APM Terminal.

Wolfe has served as the port’s deputy director and is former executive director of the Port of Olympia. He worked for Sea-Land for 10 years at the Port of Tacoma before moving to the Port of Olympia as operations manager.

Wolfe is a 1987 Pacific Lutheran University graduate. He lives in Puyallup.

The commission spent Thursday morning in executive session discussing the qualifications of a dozen semi-finalists before narrowing the selection to five in a public vote. Fifty-nine people had applied for the job.

Johnson said the port is planning an event at which the public will be able to meet the candidates before the commission makes its final selection.

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