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Board Close to Naming Port District Chief

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the marathon search for a new general manager of the Ventura Port District stretches into an agonizing seventh month, sources say the agency is close to naming a winning candidate.

But from the lack of leaks, one would think the port commissioners were guarding the identity of the next Miss America.

They won’t talk about who they have interviewed. They won’t discuss the qualifications of their leading candidate, a former city manager from Northern California. And they won’t say exactly when they plan to say anything of any significance.

“I think we are very close to resolving the matter,” board Chairman Richard Chess said Wednesday. “We are anxious to make the announcement as soon as we can.”

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Meanwhile, business owners in Ventura Harbor Village were getting frustrated.

The general manager is their landlord, and they want to know who is being considered.

“It is just this unknown thing,” said Lynn Mikelatos, owner of The Greek restaurant. “The harbor is getting on a real good track, and we don’t want to see it backslide.”

Merchants have repeatedly urged the board to rehire outgoing General Manager Richard Parsons, who has held the position for 13 years.

Parsons, who was earning an annual salary of $86,000, resigned in November as a result of philosophical differences with commissioners.

Since then, his contract has been extended at least three times. With a change in leadership on the port commission, Parsons has reapplied for his job and is now one of three finalists under consideration.

“I think that Richard has certainly proved himself,” Mikelatos said. “I don’t think there is a need to look any further.”

That was the message sent by business owners Wednesday night during the port commission’s monthly meeting.

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After Chess explained that the board was still in contract negotiations with its top candidate, 17 harbor merchants and nearby residents urged commissioners to reconsider Parsons for the job.

“I believe we have a real asset with Mr. Parsons,” said Hans Weeren, owner and operator of Ventura Marina, which provides mooring space for 25 boats. “We need him very much.”

Parsons’ supporters touted his ability to manage the dredging of Ventura Harbor, as well as his relations with Harbor Village tenants. The waterfront shopping area is now at 97% capacity.

“I think you would be very foolish to change while you are in the middle of a streak,” Ventura Keys resident Paul Masi told the commission.

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The general manager search began last winter after Parsons’ resignation. It was delayed after two commissioners stepped down earlier this year.

With a new board in place, commissioners hope a decision can be finalized in the next week.

“We are close,” Chess said before the meeting, “But there are some items to be resolved.”

Chuck Stanton, owner of Anchors Way Marine, urged commissioners to reconcile whatever differences they have had with Parsons in the past. And if they decide not to rehire him, Stanton and other business owners said the board ought to seek out a candidate with Parsons’ qualifications.

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“I would like to see somebody with experience in managing a harbor,” Stanton said before the meeting. “We are paying in the neighborhood of $80,000 for this person, and it is my feeling we should get our money’s worth.”


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