PortMiami Director Bill Johnson will switch jobs within the Miami-Dade County government to head the water-and-sewer department, Johnson revealed Tuesday on the sidelines of a port industry conference in Washington.
Johnson, a veteran county manager, has not officially been named to the new post by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, but the move essentially was finalized Wednesday when John Renfrow submitted his resignation. Renfrow's resignation was confirmed by Mayor Gimenz's spokeswoman Susy Trutie.
agreed not to publish news of the managerial changes until Renfrow's departure was formalized.
Deputy Port Director Juan Kuryla will replace Johnson at the helm of the bustling cargo and cruise port.
Miami-Dade's water-and-sewer department is one of the largest public utilities in the nation and is facing significant challenges, including a multi-billion infrastructure investment program to comply with a federal consent decree to correct pollution problems.
"It's a new undertaking and a new challenge. And I love challenges," Johnson said while attending the American Association of Port Authorities conference.
During his 34-year career, Johnson has also been an assistant county manager with oversight of Miami International Airport and transit. During that time, he negotiated the deal for the American Airlines arena, home to the NBA's Miami Heat franchise. He also has served as a county transportation manager.
"I like the opportunity to work in the public realm and bring a private-sector approach," said Johnson, who has arranged several public-private partnership projects. "That's my trademark. Working in areas that need some turnaround, where it's needed to apply some fresh ideas."
During his eight years as port director, Johnson has positioned PortMiami to become a significant container port. He launched a $2 billion-plus capital development program that includes the deepening of the port's main channel to 50 feet to accommodate new mega-size container vessels that are becoming common in the world fleet; construction of the port tunnel in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation that will enable trucks and cruise passengers to bypass downtown streets and connect directly to I-95; and the re-introduction of on-dock freight rail with the Florida East Coast Railway.
The port tunnel is scheduled to be open for traffic in May.
Johnson, 59, has also solidified Miami's position as the No. 1 cruise port in the world. Under his leadership, PortMiami has witnessed its largest expansion of cruise brands and new-build cruise vessels in a single season.
The transition has been in the works since last May, when Kuryla backed out of an agreement to be the executive director of the Jacksonville Port Authority to stay on in Miami for more money and become Johnson's designated successor. The raise pushed his salary above Johnson's, which is about $260,000.
Johnson almost left the port last summer, but was passed over to become president and chief executive officer of the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade County's public-private economic development partnership.