New Harbor Director Hired

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 13, 2023

Morro Bay has a new harbor director and the interim director, who was just appointed Dec. 29, will still fill in for the next month or so, the city manager announced Jan. 5.

City Manager Scott Collins hired Ted Schiafone as the City’s new Harbor Director to replace the now-retired Eric Endersby, and after an extensive interview process. That process included “interviews with community members, Harbor Department staff, waterfront users and economic development professionals,” the City news release said. He starts work here on Feb. 13.

Meanwhile, Becka Kelly, the Harbor Patrol Chief, will continue as interim director, the City said.

“The Harbor is central to the City’s success and is facing some big challenges,” Collins said. “We need someone with strong business and leadership experience to build a long-term financially viable waterfront and begin to address the growing Harbor infrastructure needs.”

He added, “Ted is the right person for the job, and I look forward to him leading the Harbor Department and joining the City’s executive team.”

Schiafone brings over 30-years of “related harbor and business experience,” the City said. He is currently the Division Manager for the City of Oceanside, Calif., Harbor District and manages a $9 million budget, “with over 20 employees, 958 boat slips, the retail village, real estate leases, and Harbor Beaches.”

Schiafone previously owned and managed commercial businesses and real estate developments, the City said, over a 20-year period. “His largest project was the $7.5 million redevelopment of a full-service marina on the West Coast of Florida,” the release said. 

That project apparently was similar to California’s permitting maze requiring, “intense navigation of the extensive environmental, permitting, and entitlement issues. In addition, Ted served in leadership roles in the banking industry.”

He earned an MBA in finance and marketing from Rollins College, a bachelor’s degree from Upsala College, and holds relevant certifications and licenses.

“I am thrilled to become a part of the Morro Bay Community,” Schiafone said, “and work with the talented team of professionals the City has assembled.”

Kelly will fill in until Schiafone comes in, actually doing three jobs — interim director, patrol officer and patrol chief. The department currently has seven full time employees and several part-timers with seasonal lifeguards coming on beard in summer, too.

He’ll be running into a mountain of paperwork as the Harbor Department is taking a hard look at its future. “Key upcoming Department initiatives,” the release said, “include completing the organizational assessment, assisting the Public Works Department in assessing Harbor capital needs, and developing revenue enhancement options for the waterfront.”

Schiafone’s banking experience might be handy as the department’s main issue is that of revenue, or rather the shortage of it, as one estimate pegs repair and maintenance needs to public harbor infrastructure at $10 million and there’s no plan on how to address that. Indeed, harbor finances played a big part in the last city council election.

One avenue of revenue died at the polls in November as the Measure B-22 parcel tax initiative failed to garner enough support. It would have placed a $120 a year tax on all private property within the City Limits, raising some $680,000 a year to start.

On the harbor business horizon are the completion of Harborwalk Plaza, a motel-restaurant-retail redevelopment now under construction; and the future of the Libertine and Three Stacks and a Rock lease sites (the former Morro Bay Aquarium). 

The North T-pier needs extensive structural work and the public boat launch ramp needs rebuilding — part of a larger project that’s been identified but lacks funding.

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