V.I. Port Authority cites his experience in tapping Dowe as new board leader

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ST. THOMAS - As Sen. Carlton Dowe prepares to leave the 29th Legislature in January, he has begun negotiating a contract that could allow him to collect a six-figure salary at the helm of the V.I. Port Authority.

According to a press release issued Friday by Port Authority spokeswoman Monifa Marrero, Dowe formally accepted the job following a closed-session vote of the Port Authority Board on Tuesday. Until Friday's statement, board members refused to disclose who they had selected as the authority's new executive director.

Dowe confirmed Friday that he is negotiating his contract with the board for the executive director slot, which has been filled on an interim basis since Kenn Hobson retired in March.

"At this point, I have had a series of discussions and negotiations with the board," Dowe said, declining to elaborate.

Attempts to reach board Chairman Robert O'Connor Jr. at his listed phone number have been unsuccessful, but he made the following statement in the press release: "I just confirmed to Senator Dowe his selection by the Board and given his acceptance, we have commenced final negotiations on a start date, salary and other contract terms. We are hopeful that those discussions will be concluded and brought to a vote by the governing board at next month's meeting which would facilitate his coming on board as early as January 2013."

O'Connor said the Port Authority faces "a number of critical issues that require the focus and attention of a permanent executive director both internal to the organization but also to address the competitive positioning of the Port Authority and therefore, the Virgin Islands."

In the release, O'Connor said Dowe "demonstrated strong administrative and policy level experience as well as a vast knowledge of port operations, both on the marine and aviation sides and a vast knowledge of the current issues facing the agency."

Regarding his experience with port operations, Dowe pointed to his background as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and as a former chairman of the Rules Committee, and said he has attended several conferences as a senator that have helped familiarize him with all of the issues the region faces.

"I'm familiar with government," Dowe said. "I know what organization is all about."

Dowe said he stands ready to address such issues as a 2014 deadline to dredge Crown Bay to accommodate new cruise ships, the need to raise revenue at the Port Authority and the need to improve the Port Authority's poor bond rating.

"I think they just need to know my ability to get things done," Dowe said. "My entire career in the Legislature, I've made things happen."

Dowe has served five terms as a senator but did not run for re-election this year.

In 2004, Dowe, a former V.I. Fire Service director, was charged with two counts of wire fraud when a federal grand jury indictment accused him of stealing $75,207.25 from the government by putting in a fraudulent claim for back pay after he left the department.

A jury acquitted Dowe the following year.

Port Authority Board member Allison Petrus said Dowe "was not just good, he was exceptional" in his interview with the board.

"There's a lot of moving parts to the Port Authority, and it was based on his ability to get things done," Petrus said. "He closes the deal."

Petrus said Dowe brings a "level of aggression" and a results-oriented management style to the job.

"Management is being able to get things done by using people," Petrus said.

Petrus said the top issue facing the new executive director will be making sure Crown Bay is properly dredged by 2014 to meet the new requirements of two cruise lines.

Both O'Connor and Petrus cited Dowe's political experience as a plus. Petrus, himself a former senator, said he did not think the board's selection of a politically connected candidate from a field of 37 applicants would give the wrong impression to the public.

"People tend to pigeonhole you in that arena. I was a politician, too. But before we became politicians, we were able to get things done," Petrus said.

Dowe dismissed questions about politics influencing the process.

"People can make whatever comment they want," he said. "The fact is wherever I've worked, I've produced results."

Dowe and the board still are ironing out a start date and other details of the contract, according to Dowe and the press release. On Tuesday, board members said the new executive director's contract likely would be between $110,000 and $135,000 a year for a contract lasting three to five years.

- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email lmattei@dailynews.vi.

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