McAuliffe shakes up Va. Port Authority board

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Terry McAuliffe is shaking up the Virginia Port Authority, which oversees the third-busiest seaport on the East Coast.

McAuliffe announced Thursday at a news conference in Norfolk that he’s replacing five members of the authority’s board of commissioners in attempt to improve the authority’s fiscal management and return it to profitability.

“This team of Virginia leaders has the right experience and vision to strengthen the Port financially and put it on the path toward long-term, sustainable growth,” McAuliffe said in a statement.

The new Democratic governor had telegraphed the changes during an address last week at a Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce gathering. McAuliffe had ordered a review of the port’s finances in January and said the port has lost $120 million over the last five years.

Last year the port authority announced its best fiscal year performance in its history, saying the number of units that came through the port increased 10 percent compared to the previous year.

McAuliffe’s shakeup of the board comes three years after former Gov. Bob McDonnell replaced 10 of the 13 members of the board. The governor gets to appoint 11 members. The Republican governor appointed business leaders and GOP political donors, saying they better understood competition and trade.

One of McAuliffe’s new picks, Arlington attorney John G. Milliken, was removed by McDonnell in 2011.

McAuliffe’s other picks are G. Robert Aston, Jr. of Portsmouth, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of TowneBank; former delegate Alan Diamonstein, an attorney from Newport News; Gary T. McCollum, a senior vice president and general manager for Cox Communications from Virginia Beach; Val McWhorter, a lawyer from Fairfax.

All five picks contributed to McAuliffe’s gubernatorial campaign last year and have been frequent political donors in past years, according to a search of the nonprofit money-in-politics tracker the Virginia Public Access Project.

McAuliffe is removing the board’s current chairman, Jeff Wassmer as well as James Boyd, Scott Bergeron, Craig Coy and Robert Stanton. Boyd said he’s proud of the board’s recent work and said his dismissal was due to political reasons.

The Port Authority was established in 1952 and oversees multiple terminals in southeast Virginia. It is the third-biggest port on the East Coast in terms of container units moved. It estimates that port-related businesses create more than 343,000 jobs and produce more than $41 billion in revenues.

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