Maryland Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer announced yesterday that the new executive director of the port of Baltimore will be his former colleague in Anne Arundel County government, Adrian G. Teel.
As the search for a new director of the Maryland Port Administration drew to a close in the last couple of weeks, Mr. Lighthizer made it known that he considered managerial ability a much more important qualification than maritime experience. Yesterday he acted on that preference, saying of Mr. Teel, "First and foremost, he has demonstrated outstanding management ability."
As chief administrative officer in Anne Arundel, Mr. Teel is the head operating officer for the county government, responsible for day-to-day operations of an organization with 4,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $800 million. But he has never worked in the private sector and has no experience in the maritime industry.
Mr. Lighthizer served as Anne Arundel county executive from 1982 until last year, when he accepted the job as state transportation secretary. It was Mr. Lighthizer who hired Mr. Teel as the county's chief administrative officer in 1983, just months after taking office. Mr. Teel had been serving as the top financial officer of the Anne Arundel public school system.
"He has my total and complete confidence from eight years of working with him," Mr. Lighthizer said.
Mr. Teel will come to the Maryland Port administration to shake up an agency that has overseen a port whose competiveness has steadily declined in recent years. Mr. Lighthizer has made it clear that he thinks the agency needs a major overhaul.
Anticipating skepticism over the choice of someone with no maritime experience, Mr. Lighthizer said earlier that he intended to hire a deputy director with extensive maritime experience. Mr. Lighthizer changed his position on that issue slightly yesterday, saying the choice of a deputy would be left to Mr. Teel.
But Mr. Lighthizer added, "I am guaranteeing that the deputy must be someone with a first-rate maritime reputation."
Mr. Teel is scheduled to assume his duties June 24. His salary will be $105,000 a year. Asked about performance incentives, Mr. Lighthizer replied, "Keeping his job, how's that for incentive? We're going to concentrate on getting the job done."
Born in Baltimore and raised in Harford County, Mr. Teel studied accounting and financial management at the University of Maryland where he received his bachelor's degree in 1964. He went on to earn a law degree from UM in 1970.
During an interview in his Annapolis office yesterday, Mr. Teel said one of his first objectives will be to get the agency's costs under control. The MPA operated in the red in fiscal 1989 and 1990 and is projecting a 1991 deficit of between $3 million and $4 million. "There need to be changes made," he said. "We certainly have to take a look at a leaner organization."
The MPA employs about 440 people and has an operating budget of about $46 million.
Mr. Peel said that during his tenure in the county government he had been instrumental in eliminating operational deficits and restoring the county's bond rating, which affects how much it costs the government to borrow money.
A strong advocate of strategic planning, he said the MPA needs to devise a realistic strategy that will allow the port to achieve its potential.
He also talked about the need to mend fences with port labor and management. The port has been plagued by labor disputes and suffered two separate but brief strikes in 1990. He said he wants to build a "sense of stability" at the port administration.
Mr. Teel acknowledged that some people steeped in the maritime industry may be skeptical of his chances for success in view of his lack of business experience. "I think performance will make me be accepted, maybe not initially. . . . I only ask these people who are critical that they give me the opportunity to perform. I think they'll be satisfied."
Maritime executives responded yesterday by saying they were more than willing to give Mr. Teel the benefit of the doubt.
Benjamin F. Wilson, manager in Baltimore for Lavino Shipping Co., said, "I don't know him. You've got to give the guy a chance. . . . He may be great."
John T. Menzies III, chairman of the Private Sector Port Committee, a group of maritime executives that advises the port administration, said he trusted Mr. Lighthizer's judgment and expressed confidence that the choice will prove to be a good one.