Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw will step down from his position on April 21, the port authority said in a news release Tuesday morning.
Appointed as executive director in August 2020 after serving a decade as the head of the Maine Port Authority, Henshaw said in the release that he has decided to return to Maine to pursue other opportunities.
Henshaw said the Connecticut Port Authority was in a strong position to move forward because the State Pier redevelopment project has secured all of its permits and the New Haven Harbor navigation improvement project has secured all of its funding.
“It has been a great honor to work on these important maritime projects on behalf of the people of Connecticut,” Henshaw said in a release. “I very much appreciate the support of the port authority’s Board and the Lamont Administration in achieving these important milestones.”
The authority is planning to hold a special meeting of its board of directors at noon on March 22 to discuss Henshaw’s resignation, address the process of finding an interim replacement and begin the search for a new executive director.
Henshaw leaves as work is underway on the redevelopment to the New London State Pier into an offshore wind hub, and before the board approves a final guaranteed maximum price on the project, which has increased in cost since it was announced in 2019. His resignation also comes as the authority works to revise its procurement policies after a critical report from the State Contracting Standards Board.
Gov. Ned Lamont, who appointed Henshaw to lead the troubled Port Authority in 2020, said in a release that the authority is in a “different place” than it was a few years ago, and that it is “something in which our entire state should take pride.” Lamont thanked Henshaw for helping to move the Port Authority in a positive direction, and said he is confident the board will ensure there are no disruptions to day-to-day operations.
Port Authority Board Chair David Kooris said that the authority wanted to make Henshaw’s resignation public as soon as possible in the interest of transparency.
“John has done a remarkable job leading the Authority and advancing mission-critical objectives in key projects statewide,” Kooris said in a release.
Last October, Kooris was the subject of speculation that he would resign. He said at the time that he would not resign, and has since been re-appointed by Lamont for another four-year term on the board. His nomination was approved by the General Assembly’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee last week.
“Why am I seeking this reappointment? Frankly, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a question I’ve repeatedly asked myself given how much time and energy I know full well that it will take,” Kooris said at his confirmation hearing. “If for no other reason, I’m here because the Governor asked, and I believe strongly that if your elected officials see a way in which you can add value to the future of your community, you rise to meet that call.”
Kooris said he wholeheartedly believes in the mission of the Port Authority, and said his background and direct experience as chair of the board “uniquely position” him to continue to develop the state’s coastal infrastructure to foster economic development.
Only two lawmakers on the nominations committee voted against advancing Kooris’ re-appointment, both from southeastern Connecticut – Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, and Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton.
Formica told CT Examiner that his “no” vote was a difficult decision because he likes Kooris, whom Formica said is a “smart guy who works awful hard.” But Formica said it was time for someone else to helm the Port Authority who can take closer control of the day-to-day operations.
Formica said he was frustrated by an episode in the state Pier redevelopment where the Port Authority was going to cancel an order for fill from a local company, and instead had the fill — intended for the space between the two piers in New London — shipped in from New Jersey.
The authority ended up sticking with the local contractor, but Formica said he was frustrated at the time with how difficult it was to get information about the planned switch. Formica said Kooris told him that wasn’t something they got into the details of with the board.
“That’s not a small detail,” Formica said. “That’s a pretty large portion of that construction, and the board should be in on those details in my view.”
Formica said he supported the re-appointment of board member David Pohorylo – founder and CEO of New England Shipping – who had a hearing earlier this year, and who Formica said “seemed to have a handle on what was going on, and what we need.” Formica said he agreed with Pohorylo’s assessment that the makeup of the board needs to be re-thought, with fewer members overall, and more people on the board with experience in maritime industries.
“I don’t think the board chair needs to [have maritime experience], but if there are people on the board who say, ‘Hey, you know, we’ve been operating for this many years and we’ve had hiccup after hiccup, black eye after black eye, it’s not working,’ – then perhaps a change should be made with people that have a different perspective on what’s going on,” Formica said.