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Familiar face joins search for Port of Tampa's next director

TAMPA — Eight years ago, Bill Starkey calmed the stormy relations between Port of Tampa's tenants and its governing board. He served as interim director until Richard Wainio got the permanent job in 2005.

Now Starkey is back to help the Tampa Port Authority pick Wainio's successor.

Starkey, a retired GTE executive, and two other local business leaders will join the search committee. Port chairman William "Hoe" Brown announced the committee's lineup at Tuesday's board of commissioners meeting.

Also joining the search committee will be Vincent Dolan, who will step down at the end of the year as president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida, and Gordon Gillette, the president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas. Brown and Arthur Savage, the president of shipping agent A.R. Savage & Son LLC, round out the committee's lineup.

The port has already hired headhunting firm Boyden Global Executive Search to identify candidates for the director's job. The job of the five-member search committee will be to pare that list of candidates and identify finalists for the board to pick from.

"That's an excellent group," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman, who serves on the board, "and I think they will definitely give us the right person that we need."

The board's chairman expects the search to take from 90 to 120 days — or even longer.

"If that doesn't work, if we don't feel we have the right applicants," Brown said, "we'll do it again."

All deliberations by the search committee and the board of commissioners in choosing a port director will be held publicly under Florida's open government laws. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn warned his fellow commissioners not to speak to candidates privately.

"I think it would be in the port's best interest and our best interests not to meet with anyone outside of this process," he said.

"We want this process to be as pure as possible."

Once the finalists are selected, however, they can meet with board members privately.

Dolan was tabbed for the search committee because he's the chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership.

But he's been in the headlines lately as regulators scrutinize Progress Energy's botched attempt to fix its Crystal River nuclear plant and its recent acquisition by Duke Energy.

Gillette, the TECO executive, is on the search committee because of his role as chair of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.

Starkey is a former president of GTE, now Verizon, who has served on the boards of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and Bayfront Medical Center, among others.

In 2004 he was named the port's interim director after three commissioners appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush tried — and failed — to hire a new director without advanced public notice.

The board on Tuesday also named deputy director of administration and port counsel Charles Klug to serve as interim director. Wainio's last day is Sept. 7.

Tuesday was his last meeting. He noted that including his time in Tampa and with the Panama Canal, he has sat through more than 200 board meetings.

"That's enough board meetings," Wainio said. The board got a laugh out of that.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3404.

Familiar face joins search for Port of Tampa's next director 08/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:06pm]
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