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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Stolarczyk resigns as port authority president; cites 'personal reasons'

BLADE STAFF

After only six months on the job, Michael Stolarczyk has resigned as president and CEO of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

During a special meeting Thursday morning, the port authority board accepted the resignation and named Paul Toth as the new president, effective immediately and permanently. He had been the interim president before Mr. Stolarczyk took over the job on April 1 and is currently the vice president of finance and technical services for the port authority.

A resignation letter Mr. Stolarczyk had sent last week to William Carroll, the port authority's chairman, said he was leaving for "personal reasons" and cited a need to choose between working in Toledo or giving his family top priority.

Mr. Carroll said after the special meeting that the resignation "has come as a surprise ... we were moving along quite nicely," but added that family considerations have to come first.

Mr. Stolarczyk was 45 when he was tapped for the port position. At the time, he was senior director for business development in the Americas for Exel, Inc., an international contract logistics company with more than 500 sites in the western hemisphere. He was based in the Columbus suburb of Westerville, Ohio.

The plan had been for him to sell his home in the Columbus area and move his family, but he had been living in temporary housing in Toledo.

Mr. Carroll said Thursday morning that terms of Mr. Toth's promotion have not been worked out but he did not expect the departure of Mr. Stolarczyk to be "disruptive to the port's ongoing initiatives because of Mr. Toth's 20-plus years with the port."

The port's appointed Mr. Toth as interim president following the Aug. 1, 2008 firing of former president James Hartung for "inappropriate" relations with a female lobbyist.

But early this year when the board announced it had narrowed its search for a new president to three candidates who would be granted final interviews, Mr. Toth was not one of the three.

The finalists were Mr. Stolarczyk, Ricci L. Gardner, who had most recently been an executive for Dana Corp. and is now the economic development chief for the city of Toledo, and Sean T. Connaughton, who had been the maritime administrator in Washington for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Though Mr. Toth applied for the permanent position and proved a "very viable candidate," the three finalists offered "broader experiences" that the port authority can draw upon, Mr. Carroll said at the time they were announced.

"We just felt that these individuals can bring something to Toledo and to the port authority with the outside experiences that they have," he said. "Paul has done a tremendous job for us in the interim."

By a 10-1 vote, with two members absent, the port board chose Mr. Stolarczyk in February after a 90-minute closed-door discussion about the choice between him and Mr. Gardner.

At the time of the choice, Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, who made the motion to authorize board leaders to negotiate an employment contract with Mr. Stolarczyk, said, "He is a great candidate with leadership skills."

Toth Toth
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He added: "I think he'll carry the port authority forward into the 21st century."

"He will be the CEO and president to take us to the next level," William Carroll, the board's chairman, said at the time of the announcement.

Mr. Stolarczyk started his job in April and was the first full-time port leader since the Aug. 1, 2008, when the board fired long-time President James H. Hartung.

From 1988 until 2004, he climbed the career ladder with A.P. Moller-Maersk, a major international container-ship company that is involved in oil production, shipyards, and other businesses.

When he started in the port job on April 1, Mr. Stolarczyk described the agency as an "aggregator of assets" and "above all, an engine for growth," and pledged to ask many questions of local business and political leaders and head in new directions as appropriate.

Toledo's confluence of water, air, and land-based transportation assets ideally situate it for growth in a world economy, and "the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority will ensure that all of these assets will be deployed to create an open source environment, that will be the incubator for new ideas, businesses, and revenue streams," Mr. Stolarczyk pledged during an introductory news conference at the agency's downtown headquarters. "Let's get started."



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