Port Authority Advisory Committee
The Port Authority Advisory Committee advises the Texas Transportation Commission on port and maritime issues and makes recommendations for TxDOT to consider in formulating policies concerning the Texas port system. TxDOT’s Maritime Division organizes the meetings on behalf of the committee.
- Develop the Maritime Port Mission Plan, which is submitted to the Texas Legislature each biennium.
- Promote Texas ports for economic development opportunities.
- Identify federal, state, and other funding opportunities for maritime investment.
Standing PAAC meetings are scheduled quarterly on the second Tuesday of the month. Additional meetings may be held as needed.
|Feb. 14, 2023
|TxDOT Stassney Campus
6230 E. Stassney Lane
Austin, TX 78744
|April 11, 2023
|U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston
13411 Hillard St.
Houston, TX 77034
|May 9, 2023
|TxDOT Greer Building
125 E 11th St.
Austin, TX 78701
|July 10, 2023
1100 Cherry St.
Freeport, TX 77541-5863
|July 28, 2023
|TxDOT Stassney Campus
6230 E. Stassney Lane
Austin, TX 78744
|Aug. 2, 2023
|Port of Beaumont
1225 Main St.
Beaumont, TX 77701
|Nov. 14, 2023
|TxDOT Stassney Campus
6230 E. Stassney Lane
Austin, TX 78744
|Dec. 12, 2023
|March 8, 2022
123 25th St., 8th Floor
Galveston, TX 77550
|April 25, 2022
|June 21, 2022
|Port of Port Arthur
221 Houston Ave.
Port Arthur, TX 77640
|Sept 13, 2022
|Port of Corpus Christi
400 Harbor Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78701
|Dec 13, 2022
|Port of Brownsville
1000 Capt Donald L Foust Road
Brownsville, TX 78526
Chris Fisher is the port director and CEO of the Port of Beaumont. Fisher joined the Port of Beaumont in 1981. He was appointed to his current position on May 20, 2002. As port director, Fisher is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the port, currently the eighth largest in the nation in terms of tonnage and the top strategic port in the nation for handling military cargo.
Fisher is also the secretary-treasurer of the Foreign Trade Zone of Southeast Texas, Inc. He is a past member of the U.S. DOT Maritime Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC). Fisher is also a past president of the Texas Ports Association (2005-2008) and the Gulf Ports Association (2015) and currently serves as chairman of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Port Authority Advisory Committee. Fisher is also the chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities’ National Defense Committee.
Fisher began his career at the Port of Beaumont as a member of the port’s security/police team while attending Lamar University. During that time, he obtained advanced certification from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
Fisher holds a bachelor of business administration from Lamar University and a master of business administration degree from Lamar University.
Phyllis Saathoff is an accomplished executive with over 25 years of service in the port industry.
Saathoff began her maritime career at Port Freeport in 1992 serving as managing director and interim executive port director/CEO before joining the Port of Houston Authority in October 2012. She served in various capacities during her tenure at the Port of Houston Authority including, chief people officer and deputy executive director of Corporate Affairs. Saathoff returned to Port Freeport in April 2016 as the Chief Executive Officer.
Under her leadership, Port Freeport has successfully obtained the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief’s Report to Congress to deepen the Freeport Harbor Channel to 56 feet, initiating the development and financing of the Port’s first container terminal, and bringing new business and investment to the Port.
Saathoff has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Women in Gulf Transportation by Gulf Shipper Magazine. Past president of the National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones and former treasurer of the Texas Gulf Ports Association, Saathoff currently serves on the Port Authority Advisory Committee to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), HGAC Transportation Policy Council member, vice president of Texas Ports Association and serves on the board of directors for the National Waterways Conference. She also serves on the board of directors and executive committee of the Economic Development Alliance of Brazoria County and as a member of the University of Houston – Clear Lake College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council.
Saathoff holds a bachelor of science in Accounting, from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She is also a certified public accountant and a certified Professional Port Manager.
Rodger Rees serves as the port director & CEO of the Port of Galveston, a public agency that handles more than $43.5 million in revenues, nearly 100 employees, and $246 million in capital projects. Rees oversees all cargo, cruise, and real estate departments.
He is responsible for the administration of all the Port’s functions including business development and growth, strategic marketing and planning, finance, and operations of the Port’s cruise terminals and marine facilities.
Under Rees’ leadership, the Port increased its net profit from operations to $7 million from a budgeted breakeven point. He led the renovations of both cruise terminals including the expansion of the berths, and in December he signed an MOU with Royal Caribbean to build a third cruise terminal complex. Rees also took the lead in developing a new strategic plan for the Port that will be implemented later this year.
Before taking the helm at Port of Galveston in January 2018, served as the deputy executive director and chief financial officer for Port Canaveral, the world’s second busiest cruise port. In this executive role, he was responsible for the management and safeguarding of the Port’s financial assets as well as all financial functions of the port.
Rees is a graduate of East Tennessee State University with a bachelor of science in Accounting. In addition, he is a Certified Public Accountant with over 25 years of executive management in the private and public arenas.
Roger Guenther was named the executive director of Port Houston in January 2014. With 34 years of experience at the port, Guenther brings operational leadership and a proven track record. He oversees the efficient and effective operations of Port Houston’s public facilities, which handle a diverse range of imports and exports including container, general cargo, breakbulk, and bulk commodities, and include the area’s largest breakbulk facility and two of the most efficient container terminals in the nation.
Guenther is also responsible for advocating for ongoing improvements and maintenance of the Houston Ship Channel (HSC) in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The HSC is the busiest federal waterway in the U.S. and is ranked number one for waterborne tonnage. More than 200 public and private terminals conduct business alongside the HSC and, together, support $802 billion in annual economic value.
Before becoming executive director, he served as deputy executive director of Operations and was responsible for all container and breakbulk cargo operations, management and construction of capital development projects, facility and asset maintenance, and real estate interests. Since joining Port Houston in 1988, Guenther has served in various capacities related to facilities management, including master planning of the Bayport Container Terminal, redevelopment of the existing Barbours Cut Terminal, and procurement of all container handling cranes and equipment over the last three decades.
In 2016, Guenther was elected president of the Texas Ports Association and served through September of 2020. He currently serves on numerous boards and committees including the Texas Department of Transportation’s Texas Freight Advisory Committee, the Port Authority Advisory Committee, the Board of Visitors of Texas A&M University at Galveston, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Advisory Council, the Port Terminal Railroad Association, the Greater Houston Port Bureau, and the Board of Directors of the National Association of Waterfront Employees. In 2021, he was appointed by Governor Gregg Abbott to the board of the Gulf Coast Protection District. His awards and honors include the 2017 Bronze Award Recipient-Houston International Seafarers, the 2018 Humanitarian Award (Philanthropic Male)-Latino Learning Center, and the 2018 Most Admired CEO-Houston Business Journal.
Guenther has a bachelor of science in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and an MBA in International Trade and Finance from the University of St. Thomas.
Walker Smith is the Executive Director at the Port of Harlingen Authority, appointed in March 2014. As director, he has added a national agriculture chemical supplier and two international petroleum distributors as customers of the Port. He has also been successful in establishing an overweight corridor extending to the US/Mexican border that will increase imports & exports and help the region take advantage of the new energy reform in Mexico. Since 2014, under Walker’s leadership, the Port has flourished.
Over the last five years, the Port has experienced an increase in tonnage each year, steadily grown its operating revenues and has improved the Port’s infrastructure. Including increasing overall tonnage growth over five years: A 211% increase from FY 2016-17 (966,079) to FY 2020-21 (3,013,124). As well as increasing overall barge traffic over five years: A 520% increase from FY 2016-17 (104) to FY 2020-21 (635), which equates to a 166% increase in waterborne tonnage, from 544,588 to 2,362,527, over those same five years. An increase in goods has also led to an increase in economic impact. According to a recent economic impact study, under his leadership, the Port of Harlingen supports 9,725 direct, indirect, and induced employment, a 108% increase from 2018. As well as 79% increase in economic activity for the State of Texas from $1 billion to $1.79 billion over the same period.
The Port has also received more than $13 million in grants from the Texas Department of Transportation for infrastructure improvements and received a 2020 U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Division (MARAD) Marine Highway Project Designation for the creation of a container on barge service. He is set to be the incoming president of the Gulf Ports Association, an executive committee member of the Texas Ports Association, committee member of the South Texas Area Maritime Security committee and the Intracoastal Shallow Draft Ports committee. Walker is also an active member in the Gulf Intracoastal Canal Association, Inland Rivers Port and Terminals and the American Association of Port Authorities.
Prior to becoming the director, he was the assistant manager for Willacy Coop in Raymondville Texas. He held that position for 6 years while managing purchasing, operations, and logistics for five grain elevators from San Perlita, TX to Progreso, TX and the exportation of grain sorghum to Mexico. Walker also managed the Coop’s cotton gin and an ag chemical sales operation. He was an owner operator of WD Smith Farms, a cotton and grain producing operation for 5 years before taking the position at the Coop. He is married to his wife Kara Smith for 22 years and has two children Parker and Sadie.
Charles was born and raised in Goliad County and holds a Bachelor of Science in Ag Economics from Texas A&M University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Houston-Victoria, and a Certified Public Accountant. Charles began his career with the Port of Port Lavaca/Point Comfort in May 2000 as the Deputy Port Director of Finance and Administration. He was hired as the Port Director in February 2008. He has served as a member of the United States Coast Guard Corpus Christi Sector Area Maritime Security Committee, which oversees security issues from Palacios to Brownsville, was the Vice President of the Texas Ports Association and is a member of the Board of Directors of the US Gulf Coast Ports of the American Association of Port Authorities.
Sean Stibich serves as executive director of the Port of Victoria. He also serves as the general manager and architect of the next-stage evolution and growth roadmap for this full-service inland port and 35-mile barge canal. Since joining the port in 2019, which operates under the governance of the Victoria County Navigation District Board, he has championed a portfolio of strategic initiatives that strengthened both the port’s operations and its competitive position as a key transportation center to the chemical, steel, petroleum and agribusiness industries for intermodal service delivery.
He joined APM Terminals as the assistant operations manager for Port of Miami. He was recruited to Ceres Terminals in New Orleans, where he was promoted to marine manager responsible for the full scope of loading-unloading operations at one of North America’s busiest cargo ports. From there, he joined Rickmers-Linie in Houston as port captain, directing and leading a highly complex operation comprised of 7 ports across the Americas.
In 2014, Stibich was named port captain and cargo superintendent for Hansa Heavy Lift Americas’ Houston operation, with his role elevated in 2016 to encompass serving as acting head of marine operations. He played a central role in enhancing a broad spectrum of operational and financial aspects of the division, achieving success in both business development and the performance of the company’s fleet of 13 heavy lift ships. Most recently, he was global manager of sales and business development with GullsEye Logistics Technologies, where he directed the global go-to-market strategy for a startup provider of enterprise marine terminal operations software solutions.
He represents Port of Victoria as president of the Victoria Barge Canal Association and as a core member of the South Texas Transportation Conference, the Alliance for I-69 South Texas West Board, the Victoria MPO Policy Advisory Committee, the University of Houston-Victoria Provost Advisory Board, and the Victoria Rotary. He has promoted the port’s interests and influenced business development and regulatory agendas through his interactions with FEMA, USACE, and federal and state legislators.
Stibich has a bachelor of science in business in marine transportation from SUNY Maritime College.
Zach Johnson serves as director of Governmental Affairs for the Sabine River Authority of Texas.
Johnson is a longtime legislative staffer and most recently served as a special advisor to Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan. Before his time at the office of the speaker, he worked as the chief of staff to then State Representative Dade Phelan. Johnson served as the representative’s chief advisor on all legislative and political matters, state budget recommendations and local house district issues.
Johnson is a graduate of Lamar University.
Aaron Kocian is an accomplished policy and budget expert with more than 25 years of experience crafting solutions to our state's toughest challenges. Kocian has served both lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and lieutenant governor David Dewhurst as transportation policy advisor and has gained a reputation as one of Texas' foremost authorities on transportation policy. His expertise spans local, state and federal policy and covers all transportation modes.
Throughout his 18 years of service in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, Kocian has played an integral role shaping the state’s robust transportation system. His accomplishments include creating and capitalizing the Ship Channel Improvement Revolving Fund to help finance ship channel deepening and widening projects; providing state funds directly to Texas’ seaports for essential capital improvement projects and projects that enhance access and safety to and from ports; ending budget diversions from the State Highway Fund; and providing three new, long-term, reliable funding sources for highway construction and maintenance projects.
Kocian has been instrumental in helping to create and develop long-range transportation policies in Texas, including conceptualizing the State’s 100 Most Congested Roadway Segments, shepherding three successful TxDOT sunset reviews, and creating the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles as an independent agency.
Prior to working in the Lieutenant Governor's Office, Kocian served as a policy analyst in TxDOT’s Legislative Affairs Office where he researched, prepared and communicated legislative and policy documents for TxDOT administration and other public officials.
Before joining TxDOT, Kocian gained broad executive and legislative knowledge working for the Office of Governor George W. Bush and Texas Representative Joe Driver.
A native of Schulenburg, Texas, Kocian is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University.