HOUSTON-A nationwide search has been launched to fill the spot of Port of Houston Authority executive director in the wake of H. Thomas Kornegay’s retirement. A search firm will likely be hired by this week, with hopes that a new executive director will be on board by summer.

Port chairman Jim Edmonds says a marine industry background is a necessity, as well budgeting, planning capabilities and financial skills. Furthermore, “the executive director is in many ways the face of this port, and is in contact with pretty much the world,” Edmonds tells GlobeSt.com. “We want someone who has a lot of standing in the port world, and who is recognized and respected.”

Edmonds adds that he’s glad to accept applications from those who already work at the Port of Houston Authority including Wade Battles, a long-time port executive who stepped in as interim executive director. But being on the inside doesn’t necessarily mean an inside track. “If any of the staff wants to apply, they’re welcome to,” Edmonds says. “But we want to start with a clean sheet of paper and no preconceived notions.”

The new executive director will take the reigns in a time of change for the growing Port of Houston. With retailers such as Wal-Mart (get the full name) having built nearby distribution centers, Edmonds explains the Port is seeing a shift from a mainly industrial point to a commercial and consumer goods port. Furthermore, the cargo tonnage will increase once the Panama Canal expansion is completed.

Edmonds acknowledges he and his staff are sorry to see Kornegay leave, as he’s been such an important part of the Port’s development and functioning. But Edmonds says Kornegay’s departure for personal reasons opens a good opportunity for different leadership.

“The opportunities coming up are going to be kind of fun,” he comments. “This is a growing marketplace, and we would like someone in the position who understands infrastructure development and freight movement, and making sure we do all of it in an environmentally responsible manner.”

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