Wareham Woman to Head City’s Troubled Harbor Commission

Wareham Woman to Head Troubled Panel
By Becky W. Evans, Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Scott W. Lang has appointed Kristin Decas of Wareham as the new executive director of the Harbor Development Commission, which is fraught with financial and management problems, including conflict-of-interest questions involving its treasurer and a $1.3 million debt owed to the city.

For the past five years, Ms. Decas, 37, has been deputy director and program manager for the Massachusetts Governor’s Seaport Advisory Council. She has also worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection, coordinating its alternative fuel vehicle program.

Ms. Decas was selected from a group of 12 applicants for her “tremendous experience with import-export issues, short sea shipping development and recreational boating opportunities,” Mayor Lang said yesterday during a press conference.

He cited her familiarity with several New Bedford projects, such as dredging, berthing and harbor planning.

“We wanted someone who could come in and build a strong coalition and who knew all the players,” he said. “She knows the area.”

Ms. Decas — who signed a three-year contract and will be paid a starting salary of $80,000 per year — said she looks forward to implementing some of the policies that she developed while on the seaport advisory council.

“I’m really excited to now put them into practical application,” she said.

Her vision for New Bedford includes making it a thriving fishing port, a short sea shipping hub and a destination for small cruise ships that would visit historic ports around the state.

Short sea shipping reduces highway congestion by moving freight up and down the Atlantic coast by vessel rather than by truck, Ms. Decas said. New Bedford would be an ideal hub because of its dredged harbor and its access to highways and rail, she said.

A new report on a financial and managerial review of the Harbor Development Commission shows the agency owes the city $1.3 million due to ferry terminal construction and other project overruns. The report, which was ordered by the mayor, also points out several possible conflicts related to HDC treasurer and commissioner Jose Gouveia Jr.

Ms. Decas said she has reviewed the problems outlined in the report and will work with the mayor and the commission “to sort those out.” She noted her management of the council’s $11.5 million budget for fiscal 2007 as evidence of her financial management skills.

Mayor Lang said he plans to change HDC operations to allow more time for Ms. Decas to focus on harbor development. The mayor has yet to decide whether in light of the report he will rescind his February reappointment recommendation for Mr. Gouveia, whose term expired in December 2001.

“I am looking at all the appointments,” he said of the six HDC commissioners.

Ms. Decas will be the first female HDC executive director. She will begin the position within the next week and a half, the mayor said.

While some people may be under the impression the waterfront is “dominated by men,” Mayor Lang said, “we have women playing a vital, active role in the New Bedford waterfront across the board.”

Born and raised in Chappaqua, N.Y., Ms. Decas moved to Wareham in 1997. She is a member of St. George Greek Orthodox Church in New Bedford, where she married her husband, Gregory, and where her two young daughters were baptized.

In 1997, Ms. Decas received a master’s degree in environmental policy and management from the University of Denver. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Vermont.

Contact Becky W. Evans at revans@s-t.com
Date of Publication: December 22, 2006 on Page A07