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Duluth Seaway Port Authority hires new executive director

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority Board hired a new executive director Thursday. Vanta E. Coda II will assume the post Oct. 1, replacing current director Adolph Ojard, who announced his pending retirement in May. Coda, 46, has worked for more than...

Vanta E. Coda II
Vanta E. Coda II

The Duluth Seaway Port Authority Board hired a new executive director Thursday.

Vanta E. Coda II will assume the post Oct. 1, replacing current director Adolph Ojard, who announced his pending retirement in May.

Coda, 46, has worked for more than 20 years in transportation and logistics, starting his career in Chicago with the Illinois Central Railroad. Most recently, he has worked as director of field transportation for Dynegy Inc. in Houston.

Coda attended Thursday's meeting. After the meeting he said he and his family were excited to come to Duluth.

He also said that the port and the Port Authority are very well run, which suits his stewardship approach to management.

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"I can walk into (Duluth) and not have to fix anything, just carry on," he said.

Fifty-three people from across the nation applied for the job.

"The job is obviously highly coveted," Coda said.

Under the contract commissioners approved Thursday, Coda will receive a $160,639 salary, 25 vacation days a year and health care benefits. He will receive a $25,000 moving allowance after he starts.

Coda, 46, graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in history and political science. He started with the Illinois Central Railroad in 1993, eventually becoming director of marketing and sales. The Westlake Group of Companies hired him in 2000 to manage all logistics for its vinyls subsidiary. In 2005 he was hired by American Commercial Lines to be director of regional sales in the Gulf. Most recently, he served as director of fuel transportation for Dynegy Inc. in Houston, Texas. Coda and his wife have three sons.

"Mr. Coda is exactly the type of person we were looking for in this nationwide search," Port Authority Board President Steve Raukar said in a prepared statement. "He possesses strong business acumen, understands transportation pricing and utilization and has excellent communication and negotiation skills plus a strategic, hands-on approach to management."

Coda becomes only the seventh director of the Port Authority since 1957. Ojard, a Knife River native, filled the position for 10 years. Before that Ojard worked 31 years in the transportation sector for U.S. Steel and for the corporation's affiliates.

"It has been a very rewarding 10 years," Ojard told commissioners near the end his last board meeting as director. "Thank you, it's been a great career."

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Waste Management lease

In other business, commissioners approved a five-year lease of a vacant building at 1105 Port Terminal Drive with Waste Management. The firm plans to use the building as a transfer site for unsorted recyclables -- with trucks bringing in and dumping items that will be loaded into semi-trailers that will bring the material to a sorting facility in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Waste Management plans to spend $500,000 to expand the building and prepare it for its new role. The lease has an option to be renewed after five years.

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Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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