Port of New Orleans to get new CEO as longtime leader announces retirement _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Port of New Orleans President and CEO Gary LaGrange, right, speaks with Ana Menes, the port's commercial manager of Latin America, and Maggie Martinez, of Seaboard Marine, during an April 12 celebration of the Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal. LaGrange is retiring in April 2017.

For the second time in two months, a group of local business and education officials tasked with nominating candidates to serve on the Port of New Orleans’ board met Tuesday to settle on three names to deliver to the governor.

Despite reaching the same result as before, one key difference set the two meetings apart: This time, the process wasn’t carried out in private.

After a dozen rounds of voting, the group settled on the same three candidates as the previous meeting: Tara Hernandez, president of JCH Development, a New Orleans-based real estate development firm; Jack Jensen, founder and CEO of Jensen Companies, a local logistics company; and Chaffe McCall attorney William Langenstein, a former Public Belt Railroad commissioner who serves on several nonprofit and community boards.

Gov. John Bel Edwards will select one of the three to serve on the port’s board.

The nominating council met last month in a closed-door session. Although some council members said that was their approach for years, questions swirled at the meeting and in the weeks afterward about whether it was subject to the state’s open meetings law and required to be held in public.

A June 16 opinion issued by state Attorney General Jeff Landry said the council “is a ‘public body’ within the meaning of the Open Meetings Law and thus subject to the requirements of that law.”

The opinion was requested by Rep. Joseph Bouie Jr., D-New Orleans.

Agencies involved in the nominating included the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade and the Steamship Association; the International Freight Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association of New Orleans; Maritime Trades Council of Greater New Orleans and Vicinity; Metropolitan Area Committee; Louisiana Farm Bureau; Urban League of Greater New Orleans; Dillard University; Xavier University; World Trade Center; Greater New Orleans Barge Fleeting Association; Propeller Club of the United States and the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.