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L. B. Port Panel Seeks New Chief for Harbor

January 28, 1988|CHRIS WOODYARD | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Wanted: An executive director for the Port of Long Beach. Harbor experience preferred but not necessary.

While they may not place a classified ad for the director's job, Long Beach harbor commissioners are making it clear that they are open to all possibilities in trying to find a successor to James H. McJunkin.

The Harbor Commission, which was reportedly butting heads with McJunkin as some members have undertaken a more active role in port affairs, voted Monday to allow McJunkin to vacate the post he has held since 1977 and become a consultant with a big pay increase starting next week.

And commissioners have begun thinking about the search for a new port chief.

"We want a fellow with substantial management skills . . . and if he (is) within the maritime business, all the better," said Harbor Commission President David L. Hauser.

Hauser said he does not believe Long Beach port commissioners would whip up the same criticism the Los Angeles Harbor Commission did in 1984 when it chose an executive director without a port background.

Success Shown

The success of Long Beach's sister port since the hiring of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's former aide Ezunial (E.Z.) Burts over seven other candidates proves the point, Hauser said.

"I certainly have not seen the Port of Los Angeles floundering," Hauser said. "I think they are doing very, very well."

McJunkin has repeatedly refused to discuss any aspect of the commission's decision to move him to the consulting position. He did say this week that the new job is a move "probably to the side" rather than a promotion.

McJunkin's new title will be international trade and marketing adviser. His salary of $102,500 a year will be upped to $120,000.

Even though he will conceivably have fewer responsibilities as a consultant, McJunkin said he will be worth the extra money. "I've always earned my salary and I expect to continue to do so," he said.

Hauser said the consulting job will take McJunkin through until April, 1989, when he becomes president of the prestigious Tokyo-based International Assn. of Ports and Harbors. He currently holds posts on the California and American associations of ports and harbors. By then, he will be eligible to draw a pension from the port of $60,000 a year.

'Best of the Best'

One former harbor commissioner described McJunkin as "the best of the best" and said his removal to a consulting role was the work of an increasingly political harbor commission.

"I think it's no question that the majority of the commission has lost confidence in McJunkin," said James H. Gray, a McJunkin supporter who served on the commission for 11 years.

He said that Hauser, Vice President George F. Talin Sr. and Commissioner Joel B. Friedland, have formed a majority that has edged toward running the port rather than merely setting policy and leaving management to the executive director.

"I think their viewpoint was that Jim McJunkin exerted a great deal of power with the tenants and there should be more input from the commission at the front end," Gray said.

Hauser denied the commission is dabbling in the director's domain, but he said he generally agrees that he, Talin and Friedland--the most recent appointees to the commission--have taken a more active role in port business.

"I take a bit of offense if somebody says 'You want to run the port,' " he said. "I don't want to run the port. But I have ideas in my mind as to policies the port should be following and it is a duty to establish policies and establish guidelines."

'Strong-Willed Person

On McJunkin, he said, "I think with McJunkin we have had a very strong-willed person who has taken more a personal hand in operations than at many of the other ports in the country. We have been very fortunate that . . . he has done a very good job."

Hauser said that just because the Port of Long Beach is prospering, the commission should not quit trying to make improvements.

Under McJunkin, the Port of Long Beach handled nearly 60 million metric revenue tons of goods valued at more than $40 billion in the 1986-87 fiscal year, more tonnage than any other West Coast port.

McJunkin said his biggest accomplishment has been to put the Port of Long Beach on the international trading map. He said that when he first took over, some trade executives did not know Long Beach from Laguna Beach.

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