An old political hand with oil and gas experience could soon be helping the Port of Iberia grow business for its energy sector tenants who need a deeper waterway to the Gulf of Mexico in order to compete for lucrative contracts.

Craig Romero, a 60-year-old former state senator and parish president from New Iberia, has expressed his interest in taking over the executive director position that was held for the last 17 years by Roy Pontiff. Pontiff recently retired and was appointed as one of the port’s seven commissioners.

Pontiff was Romero’s administrative officer for eight years in Iberia Parish and worked with the state senator for 17 years in port business, so the two have a long working relationship.

“I’m very aware of his professional skills,” Pontiff said.

On Sept. 23, port commissioners authorized board President Mark Doré and attorney Raymond Allain to start negotiations with Romero to take over as executive director of the port. Pontiff said the position pays $100,000 a year to $140,000 a year, depending on experience.

Romero was Iberia Parish president from 1984 to 1992 and state senator from 1992 until 2008. Term limits in 2008 prevented him from seeking another term. He has been a salesman for Frank’s International for the last 20 years.

Romero said he would resign from Frank’s if he’s named port director.

“There’s no way you can do both jobs,” Romero said. “They both require your full attention.”

Romero said he would continue to pursue a Corps of Engineers project long sought by port officials and port tenants, which include major oil and gas fabrication companies, for a deeper channel to the gulf.

Pontiff and the port board have for years sought funding to deepen the 50-mile channel leading south to the gulf. A deeper waterway can accommodate the bigger platforms and components needed to extract oil and gas in Gulf of Mexico water depths up to 10,000 feet.

A breakthrough came earlier this year when language in a federal bill specified the port project would be carried out with hydraulic dredging rather than the more expensive conventional dredging method of using cranes. Even with the enabling language change, Pontiff said, it could still be a few years before the project commences.

Romero said he’s kept up with the port’s progress, such as work now being done to reinforce the north-south waterway’s bulkheads so they don’t collapse when dredging work does begin.

He said he has strong connections to the Louisiana congressional delegation and would use his experience and the Rolodex he’s built through years in politics and oil field sales with Frank’s International.

“I work for a very good company. I enjoy my job. I travel a lot,” Romero said. “But there’s so much synergy in what I currently do and what’s at the Port of Iberia.”

Romero would work with a board of commissioners that changed on Sept. 19, when the members voted on the board’s makeup for the next six-year term.

Three of the seven commissioners are new: Pontiff, Elbridge “Smitty” Smith and Simieon Theodile. They replaced Millie Martinez and Michael Resweber, who both opted not to pursue another term, and Frank Minvielle, who was voted out by the board.

The four commissioners who will serve another term are Doré, Danny David, Larry Rader and Gene Jefferies.