NEW LONDON — The Connecticut Port Authority has approved the appointment of John Henshaw III as its new executive director, effective Sept. 8.
Henshaw, who served from 2007 to 2017 as executive director of the Maine Port Authority and the Director of Ports and Marine Transportation for the Maine Department of Transportation, received unanimous approval from the port authority board on Tuesday in a meeting conducted by telephone.
From 2017 to 2019 Henshaw was chief operating officer for Maine Center Ventures at the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center, a program that includes a consortium of programs at the university, and as a liaison between the consortium members and employers. Most recently Henshaw served as commissioner representing the State of Maine on the Board of Harbor Commissioners for the Port of Portland, which regulates navigation and commerce within Portland Harbor.
David Kooris, acting chair of the port authority, said Henshaw’s diversity of experience in running a very similar port authority in Maine that included navigating complex relationships between public and private stakeholders and various levels of government, made him an excellent candidate for the job.
“In particular, [we valued] the success that he had in leveraging the role of the port and the goods transferring through it for economic development and strengthening relationships between businesses and private sector and the diverse aspects of the supply chain within the state of Maine and the infrastructure of the port to the benefit of all parties,” said Kooris.
After the board approval, Henshaw called in to the meeting and said he looked forward to the opportunity to grow the state’s maritime future.
“It will be an honor to work with this board. Despite the current pandemic and economic conditions, I am optimistic about the state’s maritime future. In many ways it’s at a crossroads and I believe Connecticut ports are well-positioned for success,” said Henshaw, who earned a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Henshaw also brings experience in the wind industry supply chain, which the board saw as a match for the emerging opportunities in Connecticut’s ports and maritime economy. He is chair of the Board of Advisors of the International Association of Maritime and Port Executives, an association dedicated to developing and maintaining professional standards in the maritime industry and is past president of the North Atlantic Ports Association.
In a 2017 Portland Press Herald article, Henshaw is credited with managing more than $45 million in upgrades to the Port of Portland, including the modernization of the International Marine Terminal.
Under his watch, the port added a modernized cold storage facility to support the state’s food and beverage industry, according to a release. He also brought rail to the city’s marine terminal for the first time in 60 years.
The position of executive director has been unfilled since Sept. 2019 when former executive director Evan Matthews stepped down after being placed on administrative leave by the board in mid-July 2019.
Matthews’ departure came after Gov. Ned Lamont called for the resignation of the former chair of the port authority, Bonnie Reemsnyder, then-first selectman of Old Lyme, whose daughter was paid $3,000 by the authority for six photographs for the authority office space in Old Saybrook.
In early August of that year, Gov. Lamont called for the Office of Policy and Management to oversee the finances of the port authority. Retired Navy Captain Paul Whitescarver, who served as executive consultant beginning July 2019, also helped oversee the transition before his contract ended in January 2020.
As part of the selection process, the port authority search committee and members of the Office of Policy and Management and the Lamont administration jointly interviewed candidates.
“When interviewing for the new executive director, we were seeking a candidate that not only had experience in developing supply chains and growing our ports but also is an expert in working with a wide array of federal and state agencies,” said Paul Mounds, Chief of Staff for Governor Lamont, in a release.
Melissa McCaw, Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management said with oversight from her office, the port authority has improved its financial operational and strategic decisions and direction. She said that while there is more work to be done, the process has strengthened the organization’s operations and functionality, making it good timing for the arrival of a new executive director.
“This work has led to a fresh start and a clean slate for the new executive director to take the reins in a stabilized environment, equipped with the policy and governance infrastructure necessary for the success of the authority’s projects and mission and for assurance of the public trust,” she said in a release.
After the meeting, Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said hiring Henshaw signaled a needed positive change for the port authority and the maritime future of Connecticut.
“I am very optimistic that Mr. Henshaw has the experience to help out small harbors and oversee the critical investment in Connecgicut’s three major ports. It will be refreshing to have a maritime executive to better navigate the activities of the port authority with the integrity and ethics that have been missing in the recent past,” she said in a text to CT Examiner.
Henshaw has the experience to correct the course of the port authority and successfully develop the economic future of Connecticut’s ports, said Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, by phone after the meeting.
“It’s too bad that mission was tainted by the actions of a few in the early management — it kind of derailed a little bit of where we’re going, especially with the Port of New London being such an important part of the growth for the state of Connecticut, not only in offshore wind in all maritime activities. Bridgeport and New London are going to play crucial roles, so this is good for the state at this juncture. [Henshaw] will bring expertise to both of those big ports and New Haven and the others,” Formica said.