By Ed Runyan
Rose Ann DeLeon, Western Reserve Port Authority executive director, has been on medical leave since Jan. 16 for unspecified medical issues and may not return to the job.
She will continue to receive her medical coverage through Jan. 16, 2015, but her pay will run out after an undetermined number of vacation and sick hours are exhausted, the port authority’s chairman, James Floyd, said Wednesday.
The port authority won’t be looking for a replacement right away but will consider other individuals to lead the economic-development operation.
Her assistant, Sarah Lown, will continue in her economic-development role and will not assume the role of executive director, Floyd said.
An administrative assistant to Lown will be hired in the coming months, and she will have an intern joining her from Youngstown State University soon.
The port-authority board also plans to become more involved in operation of the economic-development operations, Floyd said. The port authority’s economic- development committee, under the leadership of new board member Ron Klingle, will include six of the eight port authority members instead of four. This committee will provide additional aide to Lown, Floyd said.
DeLeon missed several months of work in 2012 after a cancer diagnosis but said last November she was healthy. Her contract runs through the end of this year.
Floyd said DeLeon’s medical issues appear to be serious, and he’s been told she has applied for disability benefits through the Public Employees Retirement System and said it’s possible she won’t be back as executive director.
She’s been director since November 2009, when the position was created at the urging of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and was paid $155,000 per year during her first three years and received a $5,000 performance bonus in 2011.
Starting in November 2012, she earned $95,000 annually with the potential for incentives topping out at $150,000.
In other business, the port authority authorized Lown to hire two consultants at a cost of up to $10,000 to assist her with a grant application to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.
Former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams is expected to be confirmed as director of the agency.
The application, which must be submitted by March 14, is for a designation that would give a seven-county area preferential consideration and technical support from 10 federal agencies to help the region devise “innovative strategies that will lead to economic growth and job creation.”
The seven counties are Mahoning, Trumbull, Ashtabula and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Mercer, Lawrence and Beaver counties in Pennsylvania.
Up to 12 such communities in the United States will be chosen for the designation in a program called the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership.
The local application will focus on additive manufacturing, which is being developed through Youngstown’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now named America Makes; and the area’s gas and oil industry, Lown said.
The designation will make the awarded communities eligible for $1.3 billion in federal dollars and assistance. The winning bids will be announced in June.