After increasing demolitions, Butler County Port Authority leader takes new job

Mike McNamara
Mike McNamara

Butler County is looking for a new Port Authority chief now that Executive Director Mike McNamara is leaving to become Clermont County’s economic development director.

The commissioners on Monday approved McNamara’s resignation, which was effective Friday. McNamara has overseen a complete transformation of the agency that officials said basically “blew up” several years ago when the county commissioners needed to bail it out for $55,000 to keep it afloat.

Port authorities are funded by fees for services, so they are dependent on a steady flow of transactions for funds. McNamara told the Journal-News the coronavirus pandemic has slowed business, but in April they closed on the mega Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill sports and convention complex under construction in Hamilton and the Port fee totaled $780,000.

Since McNamara took over in 2015, the port has closed 12 projects worth a total of $340 million and received almost $1.94 million in fees, including from Spooky Nook.

The authority has in of excess of $1 million to share countywide for economic development endeavors. One of McNamara’s final tasks was to present to his board a plan for the money. He told the Journal-News he recommended the board keep $500,000 in reserve and open $1.3 million up for the pilot program that isn’t slated to begin until January.

The Port Authority has its own independent governing board.

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“I’m really excited for Mike however not as excited for us, because I think we have come a long way in the last five years-plus,” Chairwoman Denise Quinn said of McNamara’s resignation. “I think Mike has done a great job for us. Whether you look at working with visibility of the Port, his ability to inform others of what we can and cannot provide. We have come so far.”

Quinn said they won’t act on the pilot program until a new director is hired.

“I really feel it’s important for the new person who steps in to be able to have input into that instead of strictly inherit something,” Quinn said adding “so they have a buy-in and a commitment to these things.”

McNamara’s position is under the auspices of county commissioners’ because he also works in the county’s development department under Director David Fehr. He has worked on the re-branding effort and other tasks for Fehr, who said he is working with human resources, with input from Quinn on posting the job with an annual pay range of $58,676 to $85,072.

Commissioner Don Dixon said McNamara has done a good job and he wishes him well. He noted the job description likely will change slightly.

“You can always make it better,” Dixon said they would work collaboratively with everyone involved in filling the job. “There will be some changes in it, the job description. I’m just not sure what that will be at this point.”

McNamara started his career with the county in the Clerk of Courts Office in 1998; was chief deputy for Treasurer Nancy Nix from 2010 to 2015. He moved to the development department in 2015 serving as the executive director for both the Port Authority and the Land Bank. Those duties were split in 2018 when Kathy Dudley was hired to run the land bank.

“I understand that he is a talented professional who must continue growing and learning new things, but he will certainly be missed by me,” Nix, who is also chairwoman of the lank bank board, said. “Mike did an outstanding job in the treasurer’s office and also as executive director for our county’s land bank, plus he’s a good friend.”

McNamara said he is proud of all his work in Butler County and will miss everyone but the Clermont job was a great opportunity for him. Turning around the Port he considers a great accomplishment, requiring rebuilding trust with local governments and local businesses.

“It took my first couple of years working in the Port Authority to rebuild that relationship,” McNamara said. “And to start putting some winning projects under our belt, throughout the county not just in one community, demonstrating that we were serious about helping the economic development position for Butler County.”