LA Port director gets a salary hike following high-tension pandemic year

Los Angeles harbor commissioners this week approved what they called a long-overdue raise for Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka, citing his accomplishments navigating the the trade hub through the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

Seroka, who was hired in 2014, will receive a $48,000 a year raise, increasing his annual salary from $354,000 to $400,000.

The total raise includes a retroactive cost-of-living hike of 2.75% and a merit pay increase.

Seroka will also receive a 2% cost-of-living adjustment on June 19, 2022, pushing his salary to $408,000 a year.

The changes are pending confirmation by the Los Angeles City Council, but will be retroactive to Thursday, July 15, when the harbor commission OK’d the raise.

The boost, said Commissioner Diane Middleton, reflects “the amazing job that Mr. Seroka has done in all the years (as executive director), particularly in the last year.”

The commissioners made the decision in closed session, as is typical for personnel matters. But when the panel announced the decision publicly, commissioners praised Seroka for working with the labor unions, staff and the city of Los Angeles, especially in seeing the nation’s busiest port through the challenge of a pandemic that initially sent cargo plunging — before skyrocketing in the second half of 2020.

Seroka, at the behest of Mayor Eric Garcetti, also established an essentially new city department, Logistics Victory Los Angeles, to make sure needed medical and preventative supplies were available citywide.

The executive director has also overseen a period focused on environmental initiatives and terminal modernization controversies.

Seroka had received two merit raises before this week, but the last one was four years ago.

“This is certainly an oversight by this port,” commission President Jamie Lee said, promising to revisit the compensation package annually going forward.

Commissioner Lucia Moreno-Linares agreed.

“I would just like to apologize, frankly,” Moreno-Linares said, “especially after the year we’ve had. It’s an injustice.”

Before helming the Port of LA, Seroka, appointed by Garcia, was a shipping executive with American Presidents Line and had more than 21 years of experience in container shipping and logistics. He replaced Geraldine Knatz. Knatz, who then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed in December 2005, was the first woman to run a major port complex in the country. She retired in October 2014.

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Seroka was also credited by commissioners for his public outreach, including his monthly pandemic virtual briefings, during which he provided updates on cargo numbers.

“Gene, you’re a rock star,” said commission Vice President Ed Renwick.

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