by Marty Cook
Posted 3/10/2014 12:00 am
Updated 8 months ago
Paul Latture has big plans after he steps down as executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority.
“Holding a golf club or a fishing pole is going to occupy a lot of my time,” said Latture, 67, who has been in charge of the Port Authority since 1999.
Latture has announced his retirement effective July 1, which is about the time the Port Authority’s new $1.9 million headquarters building is scheduled to open. The new Arkansas River Resource Center occupies 4.2 acres on the banks of the Arkansas River and will also be home to the Little Rock Port Authority Shortline Railroad and the Arkansas Waterways Commission.
Latture said the Port Authority’s board of directors hopes to name his replacement by the middle of June.
“I thought it would be a good time to let the new guy move into the new building and enjoy the view,” Latture said.
Melissa Hendricks, a Port Authority director, has worked with Latture for several years at the port and the Waterways Commission. She said Latture used a blend of business acumen and people skills to bring attention and investments to the Little Rock port.
“He or she will have big shoes to fill,” Hendricks said of Latture’s replacement. “He did a good job spreading the word why the port was important. He has been a very good ambassador.”
Hendricks said Latture gave a lot of tours of the port to business and city leaders where his easy charm and economic background were effective.
Latture said deciding to step down from the Port Authority wasn’t an easy decision but he felt the time was right. Latture said he will remain a commissioner with the Arkansas Waterways Commission until his term expires in 2018.
He said he and his wife want to travel a bit more, something he said has been limited while he was working.
“When you’re working 40-50 hours a week, it’s hard to go to Australia,” Latture said.
Latture said he is proud of the work he was able to accomplish at the Port Authority. He said the Port Authority receives no tax money from the government so it has had to generate revenue through its own initiatives.
“When I came here, we were just hand-to-mouth,” Latture said. “Times were tough. We’ve grown revenues triple to quadruple,” from $1 million in 1999 to $3.5 million in 2013. “I’m leaving the Port Authority in excellent shape.”
Latture was born and raised in Fort Smith where his father, also named Paul, was a longtime member of that city’s Chamber of Commerce. Paul the younger developed a knack for economic development and followed in his father’s chamber footsteps before ending up at the Port Authority.
His focus on economic development has paid off there.
“We brought in a half-billion [dollars] in new industrial investments and 2,000-2,500 employees,” Latture said. “They have better jobs and can send their kids to college. It’s a warm feeling knowing you played a role in that.”
Hendricks said there’s plenty of room for expansion at the port, which has easy access to the Arkansas River, the railways and the interstate system. Those factors helped the Port Authority grow under Latture’s direction and bode well for the future under his replacement.
“The port has had amazing success,” Hendricks said. “We’ve had growth more than our greatest expectations.”
The Port Authority has already published the executive director job opening, and Latture said he has spread the word as well. He said he would not have a role in the interview process to find his replacement but he hoped to be able to provide any assistance if it were needed.
It’s not easy walking away from a place at which you’ve spent close to 15 years without at least a look over your shoulder.
“My heart is invested out here,” Latture said.