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Tampa Port Authority moves quickly to pick firm to search for new director

TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority's commissioners said last month they needed to take their time searching for a new director to lead Florida's biggest port.

But the Port Authority hasn't taken its time hiring an executive search firm, a fact that has some critics wondering why the port is moving so quickly.

Since the board's last meeting on June 19, the port staff sent out a request for bids, advertised the job, accepted bids and ranked those bids.

Today, the governing board is set to vote on the staff's top choice at its monthly meeting. If the board approves the port staff's selection of Boyden Global Executive Search, the Port Authority will have selected an executive headhunter in a span of just 28 days.

"What was the need to rush this through?" said port Commissioner Patrick Allman.

He tried to slow down the hunt for a search firm at the June meeting. He wanted to hold a workshop so the board could discuss the criteria for picking a firm. But none of his fellow commissioners backed him.

The June 19 meeting was Commissioner Lawrence Shipp's last as board chair, and he directed the port staff to get the search done by the next meeting. He said the board will take its time finding a new director, but there was no need to delay this first step.

"It's just getting a firm in place," Shipp said, "and it's a firm that has done this before, repeatedly."

Boyden Global has offices in more than 40 countries and bills itself as a leader in finding business leaders across the world. In 2010, it was awarded a $98,000 contract to find a new director for the Port of Jacksonville. In 2005, the firm helped the Port of Tampa find Richard Wainio to be its director. He recently resigned from his $251,118-a-year job. His last day is Sept. 7.

The Port of Tampa staff ranked Boyden Global's $93,477 bid first out of six proposals. The highest bid of the six was $98,256 from Spencer Stuart Inc., which the port staff ranked fifth best. The low bid of $50,000 came from Alliance Resource Consulting, which was ranked third.

The port staff chose Boyden Global based on its "experience in the recruitment and placement of senior port executive positions (and) senior maritime industry executives," in the public and private sectors.

Port counsel Charles Klug said that once a search firm is selected, it will sit down with board members and find out exactly what they want in a new director.

"They'll come in and do exactly what (Allman wanted)," Klug said. "They'll sit down with them and see what everyone wants and what they're looking for."

Maritime lawyer Tim Shusta is president of the Port of Tampa Maritime Industries Association and a critic of Wainio. He complained that the port seems to be rushing its search compared to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's search for a new chief executive officer for Tampa International Airport in 2010.

Then, the airport authority accepted bids from executive search firms for 40 days, eventually hiring Spencer Stuart Inc. But the Port Authority took bids for only 13 days.

"If they want a director that's good for them and the community," Shusta said, "they need to put the time into it now."

Information from other news organizations was used in this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3404.

Tampa Port Authority moves quickly to pick firm to search for new director 07/16/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 16, 2012 8:03pm]
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