Port to get new finance manager

EAST LIVERPOOL – The Columbiana County Port Authority will have a new person handling its money come Jan. 1.

Diane K. Ksiazek of Wintersville, who has extensive experience in the commercial banking industry, was hired last week as the board’s new manager of finance and administration. She is replacing Sandy Steele, who is retiring at the end of the year after nearly 20 years in the position.

Tracy Drake, the port authority’s chief executive officer, said Ksiazek was a unanimous recommendation of Drake and Fiscal Officer Penny Traina, who conducted the interviews of the four people who were approached about the job.

“I think she’ll bring some additional experience we can obviously use,” he said.

Ksiazek is currently vice president of business banking for CFBank in Wellsville, a position she has held since 2011. Prior to that she was vice president manager of the special assets department at First Place Bank in Warren and the former Sky Bank. Before that, Ksiazek was senior vice president and lending/assistant secretary to the board of directors/regulation officer at Unibank in Steubenville.

“She’s very qualified,” Traina said. “She brings a lot of banking and accounting experience to the table.”

Ksiazek said her job required quite a bit travel and she was happy to take a position that would keep her closer to home. She was also excited about the prospect of a career change and being involved with an organization devoted to spurring economic development in the area.

Drake knew of Ksiazek through their mutual membership on local professional boards. Ksiazek’s salary will be $67,500 – the same as Steele’s – and her employment begins immediately so she can start learning the job before Steele retires.

Steele was hired by the port authority in early 1994, just months after Drake came on board. He said they worked together to move the port authority forward on a variety of projects and will miss her, calling Steele the “most honest, insightful person I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with.”

In other action, Drake said they are still in talks with Aqua Infrastructure LLC to purchase the port authority railroad. Aqua was supposed to close on the $3 million deal by June 30 but declined to do so because of “operational issues.”

Drake said negotiations are continuing. “We’re in discussions with Aqua as well as others with potential to do a deal that may be bigger than what we were looking at before,” he said after the meeting. “We’re going to have a deal. It’s just a matter of what final form it takes.”

Aqua was interested more in the railroad right of way to install waterlines to supply water for oil and gas drilling operations in the area.