Waterworth Takes Helm At Port Of Houston

An aptronym is a name that matches its owner’s job or personality. Famous examples include 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern and golf superstar Tiger Woods. Add to that list a man who’s just taken on one of the most complicated jobs in the Houston economy.

“My name is Leonard Waterworth, and I’m the interim executive director for the Port of Houston Authority.”

Colonel Waterworth capped a twenty-five year military career commanding the Army Corps of Engineers’ Galveston District. He then spent another seven years heading up Houston-based Dannenbaum Engineering.

“And I had planned to take some time off with family and friends. And then in December, it was announced that the executive director here had left. And I decided to call up the chairman and said, ‘Chairman, if you need my services, I am available.’”

Waterworth’s predecessor hadn’t just left. Alec Dreyer spent much of last year battling charges that he’d used a port authority vessel to host a personal party, then altered government records to cover it up. Dreyer was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, but not before the Texas legislature took the unprecedented step of putting the port authority under the state’s Sunset Review process.

“I actually suggested the Sunset Review of the port.”

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is a former member of the state House of Representatives and an expert on transportation infrastructure. Theoretically, a Sunset Review could lead to the port authority’s abolition. Emmett says that’s unlikely to happen.

“It’s just, if we were creating the Port of Houston Authority today, would we do it the same way we did it 100 years ago? And the answer is, probably not.”

The Sunset Commission is expected to make its final recommendations on the port authority by the end of the year.

The timing for a dramatic shakeup in the port’s management structure could be better. Houston has just two years to prepare for the widening of the Panama Canal.  Ships transiting the canal will nearly triple in cargo capacity. Again, Colonel Waterworth.

“And a lot of that cargo is going to come here. So, we need to make sure our facilities are ready for that, and our channel is ready to take those kind of larger ships.”

The Port Commission has hired a professional search firm to help fill the executive director’s post on a permanent basis. Waterworth won’t say whether he’s a candidate for the job, but he’s acting as if he’s in for the long haul.

“We’re talking about an institution that generates over $100 billion of commerce to this region. We’re talking about an organization that creates about 700-800,000 jobs in this area. If there are things, issues to be resolved, we’re going to fix them.”

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