Moliterno Expresses Interest in Port Authority Role

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Businessman John Moliterno confirmed this morning that he would be interested in serving as executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority on an interim basis, but anything beyond that would be too “preliminary” to discuss.

The Tribune-Chronicle reported Tuesday that the port authority’s board of directors could hire Moliterno, a former president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and a past chairman of the port authority board, as executive director at its meeting tomorrow.

The economic director’s position has been vacant following Rose Ann Deleon’s departure earlier this year. Since then, Sarah Lown, senior manager, economic development, has taken on many of DeLeon’s responsibilities.

Moliterno, of Girard, who owns Pegasus Printing Group, acknowledged he has had “conversations” with the board’s chairman, Ron Klingle, and other members of the board, who approached him about the position.

Port authority board members have been in discussions over the past several weeks with several individuals, including representatives of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, regarding the process of hiring someone to fill the position on an interim basis or otherwise, according to Klingle. Given the negative publicity and turmoil surrounding the port authority over the past several months, he worried it would be “almost impossible” to get anyone from outside the area to consider the position. In fact, a few local candidates with whom WRPA members discussed the opening didn’t want anything to do with the organization, Klingle said.

The eight-member board has three vacancies following resignations earlier this year amid infighting among its members. Commissioners in the two counties, who are considering their options including potentially disbanding the current port authority and establishing a new one, have yet to name replacements.  

When Moliterno was suggested by a Trumbull County commissioner, “I hit myself on the head,” having known him when he headed the chamber and worked with him on area LPGA events, Klingle remarked.   

“He knows everybody, he understands the politics, and knows all the Mahoning County commissioners and Trumbull County commissioners,” he said. “He is absolutely interested in doing this, he’s willing to do this, he understands the turmoil and he thinks he can bring everybody together.”

Moliterno, a councilman-at-large in Girard, applied earlier this month to fill the seat on the Trumbull County Board of Commissioners vacated with the death of Paul Heltzel. He withdrew his application yesterday. He also serves as vice chairman of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.

“The port authority and the airport itself are very important to me because I was there it its infancy,” he told The Business Journal. “I recognize the capabilities of the port authority in terms of fostering economic development in the Valley as part of the overall Mahoning Valley economic development team.

“Quite honestly, I was interested because it fills my skill set in terms of dealing with individuals to bring people together, in terms of solving problems and making things happen,” he continued. “Those thing I enjoy and I’ve always wanted to give more back to my community and it would potentially be an opportunity to do that.”   

Moliterno also informed the port authority board members that he would be willing to fill the role on an interim basis, to permit them to conduct a public search. The port authority members are appointed by the boards of commissioners in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, and both counties provide funding for the port authority through bed taxes.

“My suggestion is to do it on an interim basis because it’s a public body,” Moliterno said. “If they feel they need to be able to post the position and to conduct a search of whatever nature, they have that option.”

As far as filling the role beyond an interim basis, “It’s all in how it would proceed and what they want in an individual” to fill the role beyond an interim basis, he said. “What I’m trying to do is give them maximum flexibility and still be able to help them through this time. … There’s going to be additional members put on that board before the end of the year as well.”

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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