Massport narrows CEO field to 2

This story has been updated.

The Massachusetts Port Authority will decide between finalists Brian Golden and Lisa Wieland as the next chief executive of the quasi-public agency that oversees three airports, Boston seaports, and a substantial real estate portfolio.

A former state representative from Boston, Golden has been chief executive of the Boston Planning and Development Agency since 2014, and he has held top positions in the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2007 to 2009 and at the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy before that. Wieland is an internal candidate who took leadership positions at Massport starting in 2006, became chief of the Maritime Department in 2013, and rose to the position of port director in 2015. She also has a background in news, having worked for CNN through much of the 1990s as an assignment editor.

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Worcester Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, and Teamsters Local 25 President Sean O’Brien made up the screening committee, and Evangelidis announced the selection at Thursday morning’s meeting of the Massport board. The seven-person board, which is almost entirely made up of Gov. Charlie Baker’s political appointees, plans to deliberate next week when the board could choose its next chief executive.

“We expressed full confidence in these finalists. We believe they’ve demonstrated the skills that you have set out for us to find to be the next leader of Massport,” Evangelidis told the board.

John Pranckevicius, the acting CEO who had been a candidate, will return to his position as chief financial officer. The vacancy at the top of the agency was left by Tom Glynn, who left last year after a widely celebrated tenure.

A Boston Globe editorial last fall credited Glynn with adding 20 new international destinations from Logan, and boosting traffic 30 percent at the authority’s three port facilities in Boston Harbor – handling containers, automobiles, and cruise ship passengers. Columnist Adrian Walker credited Glynn with insisting on minority participation in major real estate deals.

Women and people of color applied for the top Massport position and one candidate of color made it to the penultimate stage before Thursday’s public announcement of the finalists, a white man and white woman.

“It is not as diverse an industry as I would like it to be,” said Pollack, referring to the transportation sector’s lack of both racial and gender diversity.

Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld reported both of the finalists’ names – among others – last week, quoting sources who told him Pollack favors Wieland. Other alleged contenders floated in Battenfeld’s column were Michael Capuano, who worked on infrastructure issues in Congress, and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.

Glynn may have helped Massport shed its historic reputation as a patronage dumping ground, but the agency has a checkered history. Battenfeld was a key player in perhaps the most salacious and mysterious episode since Massport’s creation in 1956.

As recounted by Jack Sullivan in CommonWealth half a decade ago, Battenfeld was part of a team of Herald journalists who in the summer of 1999 tailed then Massport CEO Peter Blute aboard the Nauticus for a workday cruise and tour of Massport property.

When passengers pointed out that the people aboard the Nauticus were being photographed from another boat, passenger Gidget Churchill lifted up her shirt for the camera, creating tabloid history.

There was a second boat also tailing the Nauticus that day, Sullivan reported, and Blute, whose Massport career ended with the scandal, believes he was set up, but Churchill denies she was part of any plot.

Massports’ leaders no doubt hope that incident is relegated to the history books, serving as an example of the bad old days, even if Blute was as innocent as he claims. Looking toward the future, Massport plans to retrofit Conley Terminal to handle even bigger ocean-going container ships, accommodate Logan Airport to serve the growing number of passengers who use it, and contribute to Boston’s economy through development of its 650 acres of property in South Boston, East Boston, and Charlestown.

The big question now is who Massport chooses to lead.



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