Let’s keep this team on track.
That was the message of the board of the Virginia Port Authority on Tuesday when, like an NFL team seeking to hold on to a record-setting quarterback, it voted unanimously to extend the contract of its top executive for another three years.
John Reinhart, 63, the authority’s executive director and CEO since Feb. 10, 2014, wasn’t going to become a free agent, so to speak, until five years from that date.
The board’s action on Tuesday, however, will keep him calling the plays until Feb. 10, 2022.
Reflecting on the dramatic turnaround in the port’s fortunes over the past few years, the consensus among board members was that the most important step they could take to secure the port’s future was “to ask John Reinhart to continue to lead us through,” said John Milliken, the board chairman.
Reinhart’s base annual salary of $450,000 stays the same, though he will now get whatever raise the General Assembly approves each year for state employees, effective July 1.
He’ll also continue to be eligible for up to $225,000 in incentive pay every year.
Finally, the board set up a retention fund to encourage him to stay, into which about 10 percent of Reinhart’s base pay will accrue on the authority’s books each year. He’ll be able to collect it all if he sees the contract through.
Last year was a transformational year for the port that included an unprecedented, state-backed $350 million bond deal that will fund the expansion of Norfolk International Terminals, the port’s biggest container facility.
On top of that, the port signed a nearly 50-year capital lease of Virginia International Gateway in Portsmouth, its second-largest container terminal, which provides for a $320 million build-out, financed upfront by the owner of the facility, Virginia International Gateway Inc.
During Reinhart’s tenure, container volume has soared to record levels and the authority’s finances have stabilized after years of consecutive losses.
For the first 11 months of the fiscal year – through May – the port on Tuesday reported operating income of nearly $9.8 million, excluding capital-lease accounting for Virginia International Gateway. At the same point last year, the port reported just under $676,000.
In other business Tuesday, the authority board reappointed Milliken as its chairman, a position with which he’s very familiar. He’s held that post since May 27, 2014. Previously, he had served as the board chair from 2002 to 2011.
The board also approved the authority’s entering into a contract to buy four ship-to-shore cranes as part of the Virginia International Gateway expansion in Portsmouth. They will be big enough to handle the largest vessels in the business – 18,000 or more TEUs, or containers measured in 20-foot units.
The contract would call for spending up to $44.8 million on the four cranes, along with an option to buy two more cranes for Norfolk International Terminals at a cost of up to $22.4 million.
China-based Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. will provide the cranes.
Finally, the board also OK’d transferring up to $3.5 million in state funds to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue work on the eastward expansion of Craney Island, where a new container terminal is planned for the mid-to-late 2030s.