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Jefferson County Commissioners get involved in port authority director search

STEUBENVILLE — Dismayed that a months-long search for a new Jefferson County Port Authority executive director hasn’t yielded the hoped-for results, Jefferson County commissioners have decided to get involved.

“We’ve been kind of disappointed that it’s taken so long to fill that position,” Commissioner Tom Graham said. “Our patience is running thin now, we’re ready to get the process going. So we offered to help and they agreed.”

The port director’s position has been open since August, when the board shifted Evan Scurti to a part-time role as incentives manager after serving as the executive director since December 2013. Advertisements run by the authority in traditional sources yielded a handful of applicants and commissioners concede one of them might well turn out to be the best candidate for the job.

But Commissioner Dave Maple said the authority’s board of directors needs to have “a sufficient number of responses” in hand to weed through before making any decisions, so he’d offered the help of the commissioners in expanding the search.

“I don’t think they intend it to be a commentary on the current pack of candidates,” Maple said during the June 25 meeting of the commissioners, “but they shouldn’t start the process until they get a sufficient number of responses.”

“They may be good,” Graham said. “We’re not saying they aren’t good applicants. But we want to make sure we give the board a chance to hear from applicants all over the country.”

Graham said commissioners typically use online job posting sites like Indeed.com, pointing out that when the county advertises openings, “we may get 30-plus applicants, we get them from all over.”

“We make sure we advertise all over the country,” he said. “For the port authority to function properly, the key to that is the executive officer–it’s so important for economic development.”

Graham said choosing the right candidate is critical to economic development.

“They have to have contacts, they have to be a great public speaker,” he said. “They’re the face of your community in terms of economic development,” he said. “You want a key person in that role–someone who’s good at public relations, someone who’s a good speaker. Someone with contacts at the state, federal and local level.”

“We want to make sure we put our best foot forward in our advertisement,” he added. “If we don’t get many, fine, but at least we know we gave it our best shot.”

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