Four years after being promoted to run the Massachusetts Port Authority, chief executive Lisa Wieland has entered talks with National Grid about leaving to take a job with the energy company.
Those talks — which Wieland disclosed in a state ethics filing last month — are still in early stages. But should she leave Massport, her departure would open up a spot leading what is arguably the state’s most influential quasi-public authority — one with oversight of Logan Airport, Worcester Regional Airport, and Hanscom Field as well as the cargo and cruise ship terminals in South Boston and nearby development parcels.
Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan cautioned that these conversations are “exploratory [and at] the earliest of stages,” and that the Massport board, which consists primarily of gubernatorial appointees, has been notified of them.
The talks came to light because the port authority filed a disclosure form with the state Ethics Commission on Wieland’s behalf in late June, explaining that she would not participate in any Massport decisions involving a company that had approached her about a possible employment opportunity. The name of the company is redacted in the filing, but Massport confirmed it is National Grid.
The filing does not specify the job (or jobs) for which National Grid is considering Wieland, who earns a salary of nearly $400,000 at Massport and has about a year left on her current contract with the port authority board. National Grid is a British utility with electricity and natural gas operations in Massachusetts and New York. Also part of the company: National Grid Ventures, a group of energy businesses that includes wind and solar power, and National Grid Partners, a venture investment arm based in California that invests in clean-tech and tech startups.
A National Grid spokesman declined to comment, saying the company doesn’t publicly comment “on internal or external personnel matters.”
According to the disclosure form, Wieland says she was approached by an executive search firm in late 2022 about the National Grid opportunity. She learned it was National Grid after signing a nondisclosure agreement. While she was familiar with the company, she had no previous interactions with it during her roles at Massport, where she oversaw port operations before winning the CEO job in 2019. She told the search firm at the time that she was not interested in leaving her current job as Massport chief executive.
But then, earlier this year, the search firm contacted Wieland again, suggesting that she talk with the company to learn more. She agreed, and had “several exploratory conversations,” according to her disclosure statement, to learn about the industry, the company, and possible opportunities there. During subsequent meetings with staffers, she learned that the port authority may have a potential business dealing with National Grid and she told the search firm she could not continue the conversations until she filed a disclosure form. In that form, she said she would not participate in any matter involving the company while the conversations were still ongoing.
Wieland took the reins at Massport at a time when business at Logan was booming, with passenger numbers expected to keep rising for many years into the future and multiple construction and expansion projects were being planned. However, Wieland needed to pivot in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted airlines to suspend many of their flights. She made some tough budget cuts and scaled back the construction plans. Now, Logan passenger traffic is poised to rebound to prepandemic levels within the next year or two, on track with what Wieland had budgeted.
“I think it’s reasonable to assume there are companies that may have an interest in her,” said Mehigan, the Massport spokeswoman. “Massport has a very good reputation at the moment [and] she’s proven herself to be a problem solver.”