Port authority gets a boost with its newest appointees

It’s noteworthy that Trumbull County commissioners did not declare the Western Reserve Port Authority’s troubles over when they announced the appointment of two prominent residents to serve on the board.

Here’s how Commissioner Frank Fuda portrayed the addition of well-known Mahoning Valley businessman Sam Covelli and highly respected Valley attorney David Detec:

“These two candidates are what we need right now. Things are moving in the right direction.”

In adopting the phrase “moving in the right direction,” Fuda is acknowledging that the recent upheaval within the port authority’s board of directors has not been good for the region’s reputation.

Indeed, Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler’s use of the word “dysfunctionality” to describe the operation of the port authority was appropriate and on the mark — based on recent occurrences.

Each county’s board of commissioners appoints four members to serve as the governing body for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. Because the power and responsibilities of the port authority are defined by state statute, the individuals who serve should be of the highest caliber.

Anything less and personal agendas take precedence over the authority’s responsibilities. That, in turn, leads to dissension and, in the case of the Western Reserve Port Authority, the resignation of three members.

Things got so bad that Mahoning County commissioners Ditzler, Anthony Traficanti and Carol Rimedio-Righetti, and Trumbull County’s commissioners, led by the late Paul Heltzel, talked about replacing the authority with another entity.

One of the avenues they explored was to have the authority answer directly to the commissioners in both counties.

Another was to expand the authority to include Columbiana and Ashtabula counties.


While that debate raged, another issue surfaced that threatened to further exacerbate the situation: the appointment of a successor to Rose DeLeon, who served as the authority’s economic development director from November 2009 to this January when she went on disability leave.

DeLeon was appointed after a national search, but recently authority Chairman Ron Klingle wanted to name John Moliterno, Girard city councilman, as interim director.

Mahoning County commissioners, who advocate a national search to fill the position, warned that they would withhold $500,000 if the authority went ahead with the Moliterno appointment.

We have long advocated seeking the best and the brightest when it comes to filling important positions that have a direct bearing on the region’s economic well-being.

Today, fortunately, with Covelli, whose Covelli Enterprises owns almost 200 Panera Bread locations and operates more than 20 O’Charley’s restaurants, and Detec, principal attorney with the law firm of Manchester, Newman & Bennett, on board, the authority has a chance of getting back on track.

The authority has the potential of being a key driver of job creation in the Mahoning Valley by virtue of its statutory powers, including the power to issue bonds. However, the infighting on the board has served to distract it from its mission.

We hope that Covelli and Detec, on the strength of their professional successes and their involvement in the community, will serve as a stabilizing force.

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