LeRoy Bruner, president of Local 24 of the International Longshoreman's Association, and three others have been appointed commissioners of the seven- member Port of Houston Authority.
Local politics and legislative expansion combined to force the changes this year at the port authority. The Texas Legislature expanded the
commission's membership from five members to seven. Mr. Bruner, appointed by the city of Pasadena, will fill one of the two new seats.The other new seat will be filled by Robert L. Gillette, a retired attorney from Baytown. He represents the Harris County Mayors and Council Members Association, an organization of 26 smaller cities in the area.
While the Legislature was expanding the commission in its session this year, the city of Houston and Harris County Commissioners Court were busy changing their representatives as their terms expired.
The city replaced Marcella Perry, a commissioner since 1973, with Milton Carroll, a high-technology entrepreneur and chairman of the board of regents at Texas Southern University.
County government selected Ned Holmes, a real estate developer and political fund raiser, to replace Refugio "Rey" Gonzales Jr. That change occurred after Mr. Gonzales' indictment on charges of bank fraud unrelated to his duties as a port commissioner.
The new seven-member board will have its first full meeting Sept. 15.
Expansion of the port commission had been a controversial issue in the Legislature. Harris County Judge Jon Lindsay and officials of cities along the Houston Ship Channelpromoted the change as a way to broaden representation on the commission.
Formerly, the city of Houston and Harris County selected two commissioners each, with the chairman selected jointly by both governmental bodies.
But some Houston officials feared the expansion would tip the balance of power at the port toward the county, which enjoys a closer relationship with the smaller cities in the area.
The Chamber of Commerce opposed the changes, saying they would make for an unwieldy board.
"It was a tough battle," says Pasadena Mayor John Ray Harrison of the lobbying behind the scenes of the expansion legislation. "They tried to torpedo it every way they could - the Houston Chamber of Commerce and the current board - increasing it by two. If you're so scared to have neighbors join the party, what kind of party have you been having?"
Prior to Mr. Bruner's selection, Mr. Harrison told The Journal of Commerce, "Whoever our representative is, they'll know we're at the party."
He said Mr. Bruner actively applied for the appointment, submitting a resume and appearing before the Pasadena City Council to introduce himself.
''I look with interest in bringing two new people on," says Mr. Harrison. "Mr. Bruner will add a new dimension as someone well-qualified to be oriented toward the port. He knows our big problem is competition with other Gulf ports and he can help other port commissioners to see what we can do."
Mr. Bruner says he is eager to "do a good job." He notes that the selection of an ILA leader "will put us on an equal footing with some of the other ports. They have ILA people on their boards and this is an edge."
Despite some past differences of opinion, Mr. Bruner also predicts he can work with Archie Bennett Jr., the chairman of the port commission: "He thinks different from me at times, but I think we can get along."