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James J. White to resign as head of Maryland Port Administration

Raymond Fitzgerald, left, president Atlantic WWL, talks with James White, executive director of Md. Port Administration, before a news conference Dec. 3, 2015, in Baltimore. White will resign from the administration at the end of the year.
Raymond Fitzgerald, left, president Atlantic WWL, talks with James White, executive director of Md. Port Administration, before a news conference Dec. 3, 2015, in Baltimore. White will resign from the administration at the end of the year. (Kenneth K. Lam/Associated Press)

The executive director of the Maryland Port Administration will resign at the end of the year after 18 years of leading the agency.

James J. White, who oversaw record growth at the Port of Baltimore that led the state to expand the port in 2017 for the first time in 30 years, will step down from his position Dec. 31, the agency said in a release. The port handled 10.9 million tons of general cargo — more containers, cars, construction equipment and other cargo than ever before — last year, surpassing 10 million tons for the third straight year.

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“It has been a good run," White said in an interview. "Surround yourself with a lot of talented people and you get good results.”

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn has appointed a search committee headed by Port Commissioner David Richardson to conduct a national search for a successor to head of one of the state’s top economic engines, White said. The port administration oversees the Port of Baltimore’s state-owned terminals under the Maryland Department of Transportation.

White joined the administration in 1993 as its director of operations before serving as its deputy executive director from 1995 to 1999, when he was appointed to the role permanently. He left the port in 2005 after a public battle for control with his former bosses in the Robert Ehrlich administration, then returned in 2007 under Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Maryland Port Administration executive director James J. White served as deputy executive director from 1995 to 1999, when he was appointed to the role permanently.
Maryland Port Administration executive director James J. White served as deputy executive director from 1995 to 1999, when he was appointed to the role permanently.

White’s successes include growing the port, inking new contracts with shipping lines, leasing the container terminal to Ports America Chesapeake in a 50-year deal that brought deeper berths and larger cranes, serving as a go-between for the Baltimore dockworkers and management, said Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333.

White’s departure represents “a big loss” to the port, the longshoremen’s local president said.

“He’s been a friend of the ILA and promoted harmony in the Port of Baltimore for a long time,” Cowan said.

As port director, White was the state’s top advocate for the expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel to allow shipping containers to be stacked two-high on freight trains — a project expected to eliminate a critical bottleneck to the port’s booming container business.

After multiple rejections, the tunnel expansion project received a $125 million federal grant in July to expand the tunnel under downtown. After months of negotiations with CSX, state officials have identified the extra $103 million to cover the rest of the project’s cost.

White oversaw the port “during a period of record revenue, cargo and job growth,” the Port Administration wrote in a release.

During White’s nearly two-decade tenure, “the Port of Baltimore improved its national rankings, upgraded security procedures and completed infrastructure projects that made it one of the few ports in America capable of receiving the largest ships in the world,” the administration wrote.

White thanked Gov. Larry Hogan for his support of the Port of Baltimore in a statement, saying the Republican governor “has set the course for the future of the Port from the Howard Street Tunnel to key infrastructure investments.”

“I’ve always been lucky to have had an outstanding executive team helping me every step of the way,” he wrote. "But the heart and soul of the Port of Baltimore are the thousands of men and women who work here every day, rain or shine, who have helped propel this Port to incredible heights. I will forever be grateful for their efforts.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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