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Lisa Wieland will serve as Massport’s new chief executive

Lisa WielandALLAN

The Massachusetts Port Authority picked its port director, Lisa Wieland, on Thursday to be its next chief executive, bypassing the other finalist, a member of the city’s power elite, for one of the most influential public-sector jobs in the state.

The 5-to-2 vote by the Massport board of directors makes Wieland the second woman to hold the $360,000-a-year post that oversees Logan Airport, Boston port operations, two other airports, and large chunks of real estate in South Boston.

She was selected over Brian Golden, the head of the Boston Planning & Development Agency.

Wieland, 48, has been 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’s supporters on the board praised her track record within various internal positions, and her success at the port in particular.

“We have given her a division of the agency to take over that was run poorly, was in complete disarray,” board member Warren Fields said. “She . . . turned it around, and it was a smashing success.”

Governor Charlie Baker appointed nearly all of the Massport board members, and his transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, sits on the board. But Pollack made it clear that Baker didn’t ask her — and by extension, the other board members — to vote a certain way.

Some advocates for diversity in Boston had been concerned that the job, like many powerful positions, would go to another white man. The issue came up in the board discussions, but only in passing.

“Diversity is important moving forward,” board member Sean O’Brien said. “Lisa brings diversity to that table. That’s going to help Massport.”

Golden’s two backers, John Nucci and Lew Evangelidis, spoke highly of his political expertise and knowledge of security matters gained through his service with the Army.


Wieland worked as a Bain & Co. consultant before joining Massport 13 years ago. She didn’t initially apply for the CEO job but was encouraged to do so by the headhunters during the search process.

“I want to thank the Board for this tremendous opportunity,” Wieland said in a statement. “Massport is a great organization and I am honored to work with our first-rate team to deliver results that support the Commonwealth’s economic development and transportation goals.”

Andrea Silbert, president of the Eos Foundation in Boston, said Wieland’s promotion sends a strong signal that experience matters more than connections.

“Her value is not her network. Her value is her experience,” said Silbert, whose foundation runs an initiative focused on increasing the number of women leaders in the state. “Our state and the city are known as places that are dominated by white men and political insiders. I feel like there is an overvaluation of political connections [in Massachusetts]. That isn’t the case in other states.”

That said, the Massport CEO job still requires considerable political acumen. Wieland will interact with everyone from neighborhood leaders to the top politicians in the State House, members of Congress and federal agencies.

Tom Glynn, the previous chief executive, was a master of working the levers of power, in part through his years in top jobs at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Partners HealthCare. Glynn now runs a new Harvard affiliate set up to develop the university’s land in Allston.


John Pranckevicius, Massport’s top financial officer, took over on an interim basis after Glynn left in November. He had been a contender for the permanent position but did not make the final cut last week.

The first woman to head Massport was Virginia Buckingham, who was running the agency at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The new chief executive takes over at a time when passenger growth at Logan, the agency’s flagship property, is rapidly rising as more airlines agree to land there, particularly international ones. Massport’s staff is bracing for nearly 48 million passengers a year by 2024, a 17 percent increase from last year.

The job responsibilities are far-ranging, covering land, air, and sea. In addition to Logan, Massport runs Hanscom Field in Bedford and Worcester Regional Airport and cargo and cruise terminals in South Boston and Charlestown, and owns more than 300 acres on the booming South Boston Waterfront.

As CEO, Wieland will run an agency with a 1,300-person workforce and an annual budget of more than $900 million. She earned about $270,000 last year as port director, and Glynn earned about $300,000 before he left.

She is expected to start by Sept. 9.

Logan Airport’s success in recent years has had its downsides: more car traffic and pollution in East Boston, most notably.

Representative Adrian Madaro, a Democrat from East Boston, said he plans to reach out to the new chief executive for a face-to-face meeting to discuss Logan’s effects on the neighborhood.


“It’s a huge job,” Madaro said. “It’s critical I have a partner in the CEO of Massport who is not only [aware] of the impacts on the community, but is willing to work with the community to offset those impacts.”

Chris Marchi, vice president of the local nonprofit Airport Impact Relief Inc., said he was disappointed that Massport board didn’t involve the community in the job search.

“We understand the CEO of Massport needs to serve many masters,” Marchi said. “Everybody knows they have to have a high degree of acumen and a great connection with the city’s business community. They have to grow the airport, that’s their job. But they also have to show they can collaborate with community stakeholders.”

Massport has becoming increasingly involved in the debate over Boston’s ever-worsening traffic congestion, going so far as to ban Uber and Lyft from pick-ups and dropoffs outside all Logan terminals for much of the day, redirecting those trips instead to a central location.

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