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New CEO candidates are whittled down as port commissioners faced with calls for hiring transparency

Local mayors, residents ask Port of Corpus Christi for more community investment when it comes to hiring for the economic driver's top spot.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Mexico City — After spending most of Wednesday in executive session discussing chief executive officer job candidates, Port of Corpus Christi Chairman Charles Zahn told 3NEWS that commissioners have whittled the number from five to four.

The five candidates included current interim CEO Kent Britton, but it is unknown whether he still is in the running. The other candidates' names currently are not being released.

“Because these people are employed elsewhere, the fact that if we were to release their names today, for example, they could lose the jobs they have and not have the job here in Corpus Christi,” Zahn said.

While a decision is still a ways off, commissioners were met with calls from several members of the public asking for more say in the CEO hiring process during Wednesday's regularly scheduled meeting.

“You need an attitude adjustment that involves inclusion and transparency and engagement with us and our local elected officials,” said Portland resident Errol Summerlin.

Several of the people who spoke during the meeting's public-comment section referenced a letter which was signed by 12 of the mayors of the Coastal Bend Mayors Coalition, which includes Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo, and sent to port commissioners.

The letter states that a lack of transparency by the port has resulted in a lack of community trust and confidence.

Among other things, it calls for an independent search committee to be used to make CEO recommendations.

It also asks for a time for public input through various forums and town-hall meetings, as well as an interview and evaluation process that includes time for the public to meet the candidates.

Commissioner Diane Gonzalez said some of the requests are valid.

“The Port of Corpus Christi is a public agency," she said. "We must respond to our elected officials and I, again today, will be asking the full commission to consider a public process immediately.”

Chairman Charlie Zahn said most of the mayors' concerns already are part of the process.

“That letter came after the application period had closed and so, I will tell you, there were, I believe, seven items in that letter from the mayors. We addressed six of them. The seventh one – to have a community group come in and tell me how to do my job was not going to be acceptable.”

But Gonzalez also said community members and the mayors aren't the only ones feeling left out when it came to narrowing the candidates.

“This process did not include the entire Port Commission," she said. "Five finalists were selected without all of the Port Commission being at the table. We are co-equals, we govern equally. We must all have an opportunity and a say in who will be the next CEO of the Port of Corpus Christi.”>

The mayors' coalition states it is ready to collaborate with the port and believes that, by doing so, it will add a measure of credibility and legitimacy to this hiring.

Digital director Ana Tamez contributed to this story.

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