Adam Schlicht Confirmed as Port Director
New director envisions growing the port through international marketing, diversification.
The city’s port has a new leader.
The port saw 301 vessels transfer 2.57 million metric tons of cargo in 2017, a substantial increase over 2016. An increase in the number of ocean-going vessels, nicknamed “salties,” has already been recorded in 2018.
For the past ten years Schlicht, who grew up in Oak Creek, has worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation. His two most recent positions within the department have included working on the management and operations of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
Schlicht, in his early June appearance before the Public Works Committee, laid out a vision for the port that included growing operations through international marketing and pushing port employees to think outside the box.
“I have been critical of some of the Mayor’s appointments because I thought we could do better. In hearing Mr. Schlicht’s testimony, this is an outstanding choice,” stated the southwest side alderman at the committee meeting. “We have a gem in the Port of Milwaukee that with Mr. Schlicht’s background we can maximize the potential over there. These are revenues we should have. I hate the word exploit, but we need to exploit the Port of Milwaukee to its greatest benefit.”
During the lengthy confirmation hearing, Borkowski pushed Schlicht to pursue avenues for the port to benefit from the construction and operation of the planned $10-billion Foxconn campus.
Alderman Nik Kovac asked Schlicht about his stance on port tenants transporting oil, something that has drawn increased attention from advocacy groups in recent years. Schlicht responded that “maritime transportation is the safest mode of transportation we have for many cargos, including bulk liquid.” Kovac pushed back, stating that oil spills in the Great Lakes could be devastating and Schlicht responded: “preserving the health of our Great Lakes is a critical priority. That is something I will carry with me every day as port director.”
The appointee would not commit to blocking any oil shipments from the port, stating that “in order for ports to succeed, commodity diversification is important.” He added that his former boss regarded him as an “overly enthusiastic emailer” and promised to be in active communication on the matter.
The new director will lead the port during an era of tremendous change. A recently released Harbor District water and land use plan envisions dramatic redevelopment of much of the land near the port, including new streets and parks as well as private development.
Those plans are likely to draw the support of Ald. Robert Bauman. At the committee hearing, Bauman expressed his frustration with the port. “You could put 3,000 people out there on Jones Island in high rise condos and probably (generate) a hell of a lot more tax revenue,” opined the downtown and near west side council member. “While it is quote, ‘a profit center,’ it doesn’t generate a lot of profit.” The port returns a small operating surplus to the city nearly every year.
Schlicht, an Oak Creek native, has a Bachelor of Science degree from UW-Madison in political science and a Master of Public Administration degree from American University. He will relocate to Milwaukee from Cleveland for the post.
The vacancy at the top of the port was created by the April retirement of Barrett’s long-time Chief of Staff Patrick Curley. Port Director Paul Vornholt was appointed to take Curley’s role, having served in leadership roles at the port since 2012. Vornholt previously worked for city’s Intergovernmental Relations Division and worked on the mayor’s 2012 gubernatorial run.
For more on the ships and types of cargo that utilize the port, see our 2015 article examining the large facility.
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