Boat Line Treasurer Says He Is Willing to Return to Role of Interim Chief

By JULIA WELLS
Gazette Senior Writer

Marking an auspicious new tack for the embattled Steamship Authority, Wayne Lamson, the respected longtime boat line treasurer, has volunteered to step in as interim chief executive officer, the Gazette has learned.

In a letter sent to SSA governors last week, Mr. Lamson offered to take over the top spot at the boat line as CEO Fred Raskin prepares to leave after barely two years on the job.

Mr. Lamson's letter has not been made public because it is protected as a personnel document under the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

But Vineyard boat line governor Kathryn A. Roessel confirmed Mr. Lamson's inquiry yesterday and said she plans to move at the regular boat line meeting on Thursday to make it official.

"It is my intention to make a motion on Thursday that we offer the job of interim general manager to Wayne Lamson," Ms. Roessel said.

"I have no doubt that my motion will carry because I know that all five members of the board have total confidence in Wayne's abilities to get us through the summer and get us through the all-important budgeting process in the fall in good order - just as he has done on several occasions," she added.

Mr. Raskin formally announced his resignation last month. His contract expires on July 28.

Ms. Roessel's use of the term general manager yesterday highlights one area of confusion now surrounding the top post at the boat line.

When Mr. Raskin was hired two years ago the SSA governors changed the job title at the top spot from general manager to CEO. The change was accompanied by a hefty hike in salary - Mr. Raskin is paid some $170,000 with benefits, and he will exit his contract with a substantial severance package.

It is understood that Mr. Lamson has also asked to be considered for the permanent post - whatever the title - a first for the veteran treasurer.

Mr. Lamson is no stranger to serving as acting general manager; if the boat line board approves his appointment this week, it will mark the sixth time he has been asked to hold down the fort during a transition between general managers.

Mr. Lamson has worked at the boat line for 30 years and began as a ticket seller.

He is known as an old-fashioned comptroller; conservative, meticulous and by-the-book. Until now, he has never expressed an interest in taking over the top spot at the SSA.

Ms. Roessel said Mr. Lamson's request to serve as interim general manager comes as a huge relief during a time of fresh turmoil at the public boat line which has been the lifeline to the two Islands since 1960.

"This will give all of us a lot of comfort, and it takes a lot of pressure off," she said.

Mr. Lamson was out of the office yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

The monthly boat line meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Hyannis. The business agenda for the meeting is light, but SSA governors are also planning to hold a working session following the meeting to discuss the search process for a new chief executive officer.

Ms. Roessel said with the expiration of Mr. Raskin's contract, the board was faced with the need to do something, and there was some discussion about extending Mr. Raskin's contract while a search took place.

"Our initial thought was that Fred would stay on under a contract amendment - but it was the general understanding of the members that Wayne would not agree to serve as interim general manager again. Then we got this letter," Mr. Roessel said.

"I have spoken with Fred about this, and he indicated that it would make him happiest if he could just leave," Ms. Roessel said.

"It all works out," she concluded.

In April Mr. Raskin launched the process that paved the way for his resignation under the complicated terms of his contract.

Mr. Raskin came to the boat line with excellent credentials and a strong background in marine transportation. But the CEO, who never relocated to the Cape from his home in Andover, has struggled to overcome poor relations with his board - in particular with Nantucket governor Grace Grossman and also the people of Nantucket.