DALLAS — The Houston Port Authority named Roger Guenther as its new executive director Jan. 31 to replace Leonard Waterworth, who resigned after two years running one of the nation's largest ports.

Guenther, previously deputy executive director, was promoted by the Port Commission that supervises the Port Authority.

"Given his background and experience, the growth in our business under his operational leadership, and his long and positive service for the Port of Houston Authority, we are confident that Mr. Guenther is the right choice as successor to lead the institution as we move forward," said Janiece Longoria, chairman of the Port Commission.

Waterworth, formerly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said he came to the Port Authority for a two-year tenure to help obtain permits to deepen and widen the port's container terminal channels.

"Under the combined leadership of the Port Commission and management, the Port Authority has increased revenues and profitability to record levels," Waterworth told the commission in submitting his resignation. "Working with the Army Corps of Engineers, we are on the verge of obtaining the necessary permits to prepare our container terminals for the larger ships we will see from the Panama Canal expansion, and we achieved this objective in about half the expected time."

The Port is on track to invest $2 billion in its facilities over the next 10 years as exports from Texas increase, chief financial officer Tom Heidt told The Bond Buyer's Texas Public Finance Conference in Austin Feb. 4.

Capital spending over the next three years will total $726 million, Heidt said, much of it to upgrade existing docks that have not been well maintained.

"The Port of Houston is not slowing down," Heidt said. "We are building up and maintaining what we have."

The Port of Houston is the nation's largest for foreign waterborne tonnage.  The port generates economic activity totaling more than $178.5 billion in Texas and $499 billion across the nation, according to port officials.

With triple-A ratings from all three ratings agencies, the port authority carries about $732 million of debt. Harris County voters have authorized the authority to issue unlimited-tax general obligation bonds to finance port improvements. The Harris County Board of Commissioners annually sets the tax rate to cover the debt service while revenues for cargo services and facility rentals internally fund the authority's annual operations.

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