EAST LIVERPOOL - Tracy Drake will remain the Columbiana County Port Authority CEO for at least another year, and possibly two more after that, following action taken at Monday's board meeting.
The extension agreement approved by 4-0 board vote is for one year, beginning Oct. 1, and includes two one-year options, which could extend the contract through Sept. 30, 2015. Drake's $200,000 salary and benefits remain unchanged.
Board member Don Crane was absent from the meeting.
The deal, which replaces a six-year contract extension the port board approved in 2006, was reached after a three-hour executive session to discuss personnel issues. Authority president Steve Cooper was asked afterwards why the board opted for a short-term contract this time.
"The board's feeling was two things: Five years is a real long contract. And No. 2, there are a lot of changes coming in the next couple of years that will affect other things. We appreciate everything he's done. He's done a great job and he'll continue to do a good job for us," Cooper said of Drake.
Drake issued a news release following the meeting pointing out the money the port authority earns pays his salary.
"This new contract will not cost the taxpayers of Columbiana County a dime. In fact, over the past 19 years I've brought in an average of $1.6 million per year in grants and earmarks that have gone into infrastructure improvements that benefit the county. I'm proud to say that partially due to my efforts, the county is recognized in the state and nationally as a key transportation hub for this important economic region," he said, according to the news release.
Cooper, too, sang Drake's praises, pointing out port authority assets have increased from $5 million to $34 million since he was hired in 1997, and Drake's contacts in the public and private sectors "have certainly helped put Columbiana County on the map."
The only change in Drake's contract is how $11,000 in annual bonus money due him is distributed. During the past six years, the money was treated as a bonus, but under the contract extension the port authority will begin paying the $11,000 into Ohio Public Employees Deferred Compensation Program. Deferred compensation is a supplemental retirement program that allows state and local government employees to place a portion of their pre-tax salary into a tax-deferred investment account that is in addition to their pension plan.
"Now it will be treated as compensation so it will be counted toward my retirement," Drake explained.
Cooper said it was Drake's idea to forgo a pay raise. "He did not request a pay raise. He felt his compensation was fair and adequate, which it has been for all these years. He's basically going to work the next year for what he did seven years ago," Cooper said.
Drake is optimistic about the port authority's ability to capitalize on the regional oil and gas boom and the manufacturing revival under way. "It's exciting times," he said.