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Massport CEO search narrows to two finalists

Lisa Wieland and Brian Golden. ALLAN

Massport’s Board of Directors, it turns out, won’t be going far to find its next chief executive.

The board’s screening committee picked two Boston insiders as finalists in the contest to run the Massachusetts Port Authority: Lisa Wieland, the authority’s port director, and Brian Golden, head of the Boston Planning & Development Agency.

The full board said in a statement Thursday that it expects to pick a winner June 27.

The official job description didn’t list experience in Massachusetts politics as a requirement, although it indicated that knowledge of this labyrinthine world would be a plus.

Unofficially? It’s hard to imagine few positions in the city where knowing how to pull the levers of power is more essential.


Tom Glynn, the previous chief executive, became a master at this game, in part through his years in top jobs at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Partners HealthCare. Glynn, by the way, is still putting that expertise to use: He runs a new Harvard affiliate set up to develop the university’s land in Allston.

Aside from Logan International Airport, Massport also oversees Hanscom Field in Bedford and Worcester Regional Airport, as well as ship terminals in South Boston and Charlestown.

It has also been redeveloping its vast land holdings on the South Boston Waterfront — steadily turning parking lots and empty parcels into hotels, apartments, and offices.

The CEO oversees a staff of about 1,300 and an annual budget of more than $800 million.

John Pranckevicius, the chief financial officer, took over on an interim basis after Glynn left in November and had been a contender for the permanent position. (Each man earned just over $300,000 in the job, although the new chief executive’s salary has not been set.)

Of the two finalists, Golden is more visible around the city. As the BPDA’s director, he is a regular presence at Boston’s near-constant stream of groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings. Golden manages a 240-person agency that has ushered in 50 million square feet of development in the past five years and has worked to carry out Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s vision for the city.


Golden’s background includes stints as a state representative and administrative jobs in the state and federal governments. He’s also an Army Reserve officer.

Wieland is held in high regard for the success that Massport’s cargo and cruise ship operations have enjoyed in recent years. The Conley freight terminal and the Flynn Cruiseport set records last year for volume and passengers, respectively.

Wieland worked as a Bain & Co. consultant before joining Massport 13 years ago and has earned the respect of peers in other cities during her four-year tenure as port director. She didn’t initially apply for the CEO job but was encouraged to do so by the headhunters during the search process.

Neither of them has experience running an airport, the primary source of Massport’s revenue. Maybe the search team didn’t want someone who might second-guess Ed Freni, Massport’s renowned aviation director.

The port authority’s board, in its news release, took pains to say that a big net was cast. The search firm Isaacson Miller screened and interviewed 41 candidates in February and March. The board’s screening committee then interviewed 10 candidates, including five women and three people of color, before whittling down the list.


Among the strong outside candidates who made it into the final rounds was Molly Campbell, who previously led the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and is now a fellow in Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative. Campbell eventually decided not to pursue the CEO job.

The contest remains tough to handicap. Governor Charlie Baker appoints the Massport board members, and his transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, cochaired the screening committee. But people close to the governor say he is not likely to pick a favorite and would instead leave the choice up to Massport’s seven board members.

They could face a difficult choice: The CEO job requires political acumen and operational skill. The ideal candidate will need to prove they could excel at both.

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.