Johnny Perez

Johnny Perez

POINT COMFORT – After interviewing candidates for a maximum of five minutes each behind closed doors, the Calhoun Port Authority appointed a former Alcoa mechanic, Johnny J. Perez, to the board.

Perez, 64, was then sworn in to represent District 5, about a 2-square-mile portion of the city of Port Lavaca. He is filling the remainder of Aron Luna’s term, which ends in 2021. Luna resigned July 13 after facing several criminal charges unrelated to his service on the board.

“I plan to with my work experience and everything that I’ve done with my life, to help the board and represent District 5 to the best of my ability, and that’s really all I have to say right now,” Perez said.

Shields A. “Tony” Holladay Sr., who represents District 1, nominated Perez, and four out of the five sitting board members voted to appoint him. They were Holladay; Board Chairman Randy Boyd, District 4; H.C. “Tony” Wehmeyer Jr., District 6; and Dell R. Weathersby, District 2.

J.C. Melcher Jr., District 3, nominated Louis Rubio, a retired men’s clothing salesman, and then voted for him.

No one nominated another candidate, Roger Martinez Jr., whose father was on the board until his death in 2010.

Boyd said it was a difficult decision.

“It was very touching that y’all came in and looked to support your district. We very much appreciate that,” he said.

Holladay said he liked all the candidates but he has been impressed with Perez since meeting him when he was service manager at Marshall Chevrolet years ago and reconnecting again this year.

“I see that Alcoa laid him off, but that he’s gone to college and gotten his training for air conditioner work, and that’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to go work for someone for a while for experience and then he’s going to start his own air conditioner repair shop. So he’s aggressive, he’s intelligent and he’s still young enough and healthy enough, and so that seemed to fit with what we do,” Holladay said.

During its monthly meeting, the board also passed the maintenance and operations tax, the only tax assessed by the port, for fiscal year 2018. It is .001 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which is the same as last year, the board said.

Holladay said with this tax, the port collects about $20,000 from residents and so it supports itself. He said the reason the board did not set a tax rate when it passed the budget at the start of the port’s fiscal year in July was because they were waiting on appraisals to be finished.

“We didn’t do away with the taxes because then you’d have to go to the Legislature to get them back, so we did it the lowest possible figure, .001, and if we could have done it lower, we would have. We don’t need their money,” he said.

Port Director Charles Hausmann also told the board that the amount of commodities, mostly petrochemicals, that have come through the port in the first two months of this fiscal year is ahead of what it was this time last fiscal year.

One hundred and twenty-three vessels arrived at the port in August. Twenty-four were deep draft vessels while 99 were inland barges, he said.

The Victoria Advocate has taken a closer look at the port’s operations since learning in May that the port had hired former Congressman Blake Farenthold as its first full-time lobbyist for about $160,000 a year.

Congressmen are prohibited from lobbying for one year, but there is an exception for those who do it for a governmental entity such as the port.

The newspaper then sued the port for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act after it discovered the agenda for the meeting at which Farenthold’s hiring was discussed did not include his name or the proposed position.

The newspaper contends that without that information on the agenda, the public was not notified.

The lawsuit is ongoing, and Farenthold has not attended any board meetings since. None of the candidates for Luna’s seat would say whether they supported the decision to hire Farenthold.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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