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Port authority moves toward finding new director

 

John Hardy thanks friends and co-workers for coming to his retirement party Thursday at the LINK.  Hardy is retiring as Port Authority head. On the left is Stanley Spradling, of West Point.

John Hardy thanks friends and co-workers for coming to his retirement party Thursday at the LINK. Hardy is retiring as Port Authority head. On the left is Stanley Spradling, of West Point. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Nathan Gregory

 

The Columbus-Lowndes County Port Authority will advertise in a maritime industry publication and work with a professional staffing agency to find the port's next director. 

 

That person will replace John Hardy, who retired June 30. The port has six major facilities that bring about $1 million in taxes to the city of Columbus and $350,000 to the port authority per year. Hardy handled accounting functions and worked in coordination with the Golden Triangle Development LINK to communicate with potential prospects interested in locating facilities at the port. 

 

Port authority board president Roger Bell said the board will seek someone with inland marine industry experience to fill the position.  

 

"We would prefer that we get somebody whose heart is in the waterway arena, that they know and understand river and waterway transportation and everything associated with it," Bell said. "Our port is a small port and we don't anticipate that we would pull somebody out of a port terminal like New Orleans or Mobile and bring them to Columbus, but what you might have is the number two or three guy there with a few years of experience that this might be an opportunity for." 

 

Bell said the ideal replacement will continue to build on Hardy's work with the LINK to expand investment on the port's east bank on The Island and acquire new land on the west bank where Kinder Morgan operates. 

 

"The port authority director is not expected to go out and recruit industry," Bell said. "They help the LINK as they work to bring industry to Lowndes County. Whenever they have a client that has interest in locating on the (Tennessee-Tombigbee) Waterway or on The Island, director is the point person. Whatever decisions need to be made are made by the board." 

 

In the meantime, business goes on at the port. The board's accounting firm will handle bookkeeping duties in Hardy's absence, Bell said, and engineering firm Neel-Schaffer will continue to provide services on an as-needed basis. Administrative functions will be handled by the LINK until a replacement is named. 

 

Bell said Hardy's collaboration with local entities was instrumental in bringing industries like Baldor, and Kinder Morgan to Columbus. 

 

"If you had a Google map of the port 10 years ago and one today, the total landscape out there is totally different," Bell said. "(Hardy's) best qualities are his level of honesty, integrity and dependability. He was just solid as a rock." 

 

A retirement reception was held for him Thursday.

 

Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.

 

 

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