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Port of Virginia narrows search for its next CEO

Virginian  Pilot logo Virginian Pilot 8/7/2020 By Gordon Rago, The Virginian-Pilot
A container ship waits at the south terminal of Norfolk International Terminals on June 14, 2018 in Norfolk. NIT, along with Virginia International Gateway, is a main portal where goods come and go through the Port of Virginia. © Gordon Rago / The Virginian-Pilot/The Virginian-Pilot/TNS A container ship waits at the south terminal of Norfolk International Terminals on June 14, 2018 in Norfolk. NIT, along with Virginia International Gateway, is a main portal where goods come and go through the Port of Virginia.

The role of the next Virginia Port Authority CEO and executive director will not be quite the same as the current leader’s.

When he was hired in 2014, John Reinhart was tasked with fixing the port’s finances, rebuilding container capacity and modernizing its footprint in Portsmouth and Norfolk.

He did just that, port leaders say, overseeing expansion and increased profits. When he retires in March, whoever follows in his footsteps will have a different to-do list.

That will include marketing, said board chair John Milliken. The next port leader will have to work to make sure businesses choose Virginia as a place to call home, because the commonwealth can now compete with the other large container ports along the East Coast.

“When (Reinhart) got here, frankly, he didn’t really have something you could market,” said Milliken, who’s part of the board’s executive committee leading the search effort for the next CEO and executive director. The committee is working with the same search consultant who found Reinhart.

With the port on better footing, the next leader can focus on the marketing role and attracting not only shipping lines to bring business but big box stores like Walmart and Target.

The Port of Virginia — the third largest on the East Coast behind New York/New Jersey and Savannah — has oversight of the Newport News Marine Terminal, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Port of Richmond and the Virginia Inland Port and its privately-held terminal operating company, Virginia International Terminals LLC.

Reinhart’s annual salary was $463,500 as of 2019. He also consistently earned more than $200,000 in performance bonuses each year, putting him among the highest-paid port leaders in the country.

After Reinhart announced his retirement in May, the search committee received about 30 applications. They have narrowed that list down to about 15 serious candidates, working through interviews over Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Milliken said.

That list has been further narrowed, but Milliken declined to provide a specific number or names. He said that all candidates are external and work in the maritime and supply chain industry. With the shorter list of names, he expects to begin in-person interviews shortly — likely in the Washington, D.C., area, where members of the committee are located and where candidates can easily get in and out of town if they’re traveling from elsewhere.

The committee hopes to make a recommendation to the board this fall. The board will vote to approve the next CEO during a regularly scheduled or special meeting, after a contract has been drawn up.

“The governor, current and past, and the General Assembly have given us the resources to build the facility we thought was necessary to bring jobs to Virginia,” Milliken said. “Now, we have to go out and do it, and this is the person who will lead that effort.”

Gordon Rago, 757-446-2601, gordon.rago@pilotonline.com

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©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

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