The Port of South Louisiana will soon see a change in leadership after Joel T. Chaisson Sr.ís eight-year tenure as executive director officially comes to an end on July 14.
The 78-year-old Chaisson is a Destrehan resident and was a longtime judge in the 29th Judicial District Court in St. Charles Parish before serving as a contract attorney for the port for five years. He was later named executive director.
His last contract extension as executive director of the port came in mid-2012 and was for one year at a salary of $192,000.
The Port of South Louisiana Commission has chosen Vacherie attorney Paul Aucoin as Chaissonís successor.
"The commission considered four other candidates, all who are currently employed," Chaisson said. "They made a decision not to go on a national search because we had people that were well qualified within the organization and they did in fact interview four people for the position."
Aucoin has served as a contract attorney for the port for the past year. Although Aucoin was agreed on as Chaissonís successor by the port commission, he has not yet received an employment contract.
"That will have to be determined through negotiations between Mr. Aucoin and the port commission president and then ratified by the commission members," Chaisson said.
Aucoin is a resident of Vacherie and a former appointee to the University of Louisiana system board. In addition, he is chairman of the River Parishes Tourist Commission and serves on the board of directors of the River Region Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1970 he has maintained a law office on the west bank of St. James Parish in Vacherie.
"My office is right on the Mississippi River and it is on the property line between St. James and St. John parishes. You canít get much closer to being on two parishes than that," Aucoin said. "Iíve been in that same location and Iím proud that Iíve ended up managing to eke out a living there. Thatís my homestead, thatís where I was born and raised and thatís where I am every day."
Aucoin said he has some big shoes to fill.
"Judge Chaisson has left a real legacy for himself over there," he said. "He was just always looking to the next thing to make the port better. He has done that consistently through the years, so I applaud him for what he has done."
Chaisson said for Aucoin to be successful in the position he will have to look towards the future.
"The main thing the executive director of the port has to do, besides of course the day to day operations, is to have a vision to see what the port can be," Chaisson said. "The whole Mississippi River, when you look at the Port of Baton Rouge, the Port of South Louisiana, the Port of New Orleans, the Port of St. Bernard and the Port of Plaquemines, we are the largest port in the world by virtue of 280 miles on the river and tonnage. And of course out of that group the Port of South Louisiana is by far the largest."
Chaisson said the port has made great strides under his leadership. He included amongst his top accomplishments the addition of a pier that can service the large ships that travel through the Panama Canal. During his tenure as executive director, the port has added other infrastructure projects including taking over operations of the St. John the Baptist airport and the construction of an 85,000-square-foot transit shed and a 40,000-square-foot warehouse.
The Port of South Louisiana is a 54-mile long port district on the Mississippi River running through St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. James parishes. Over 4,000 oceangoing vessels and 55,000 barges call at the Port of South Louisiana each year, making it tops in the country for export tonnage and total tonnage.
The port also owns five facilities, ranging from grain elevators to general cargo facilities.
Last year, the port exported more than 61 million short tons of cargo.