Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said Farrell is the “ideal candidate who demonstrated financial discipline while she served as the city of Long Beach financial officer.” She is currently serving as director of finance for the city of Huntington Beach.
Foster and the city council have had a running feud with the harbor commission in recent months, accusing commissioners of engaging in excessive travel because they visited ocean carrier headquarters in Asia and Europe at a time of significant change in the global shipping industry.
Carriers are forming or expanding alliances and reworking their routes and port calls in search of efficiencies. Many global shipping lines have reported financial losses since 2010 amid overcapacity and declining freight rates. Ports from around the world have been sending delegations to the headquarters of shipping lines in anticipation of the formation of the P3 Network of Maersk Line, CMA CGM and Mediterranean Shipping Co., the world’s three largest container lines.
Foster last week asked the city council to remove another harbor commissioner, Thomas Fields, with excessive travel to Asia and Europe being one of the mayor’s complaints. Fields defended his travel as necessary in order to retain Long Beach’s existing customers and possibly attract new business, but the council voted 6-3 to remove him.
That was the first time in the history of the port that a commissioner was removed before completing his term. Foster said he was not accusing Fields of any wrongdoing, but rather wanted him removed because Fields would not “harmonize” the needs of the port with the needs of the city.
For more than a year, the harbor commission had struggled with mixed votes on some important issues. Fields, Sramek and Susan Anderson Wise often outvoted commissioners Rich Dines and Doug Drummond on the five-member commission.
With Fields and Sramek gone, and Fields’ former seat waiting to be filled, Foster is expected to have the votes he needs on the harbor commission when it addresses future issues.
A major issue that must be addressed is filling the position of executive director of the nation’s second largest container port. Chris Lytle, former executive director and a maritime industry veteran who was highly respected by the port’s tenants, left after only 18 months. Lytle is now executive director at the Port of Oakland.
A number of management positions at the port authority, including deputy executive director, also must be filled because of resignations this past year. Public comments by Dines in recent months indicate the commission may look outside of the maritime industry for the new executive director.
Farrell’s appointment must be reviewed by the Personnel and Civil Service Committee on Dec. 3, followed by city council approval.