Ports & Terminals

Brandy Christian Announces Departure From Port NOLA

Brandy Christian, who came to the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) in 2015 as chief operating officer and succeeded Gary LaGrange as president and CEO in January 2017, has announced plans to leave the port in June.

During her seven-year time as the port’s chief executive, Christian led Port NOLA through crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, historic low water on the Mississippi River and storms like Hurricane Ida in 2021. At the same time, the port also acquired the New Orleans Public Belt (NOPB) Railroad in 2018 and embarked on the Louisiana International Terminal (LIT) project, a planned container terminal in St. Bernard Parish. Christian also served as CEO of the New Orleans Public Belt. Since that acquisition, operating revenues at Port NOLA have increased 70 percent, and NOPB’s operating revenue is up 300 percent.

“Reflecting on my time as president and CEO of Port NOLA and CEO of NOPB, I will be departing with immense gratitude for the dedicated team and supportive community who have made Port NOLA a beacon of innovation and efficiency,” Christian said. “Together, we have navigated challenges and embraced opportunities thoughtfully and strategically, propelling our port and region to new heights.

“As I step down, I am confident in Port NOLA and NOPB’s continued success under new leadership and look forward to witnessing their ongoing contributions to global trade and prosperity.”

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Christian came to New Orleans after serving 14 years on staff at the Port of San Diego.

LaGrange, Christian’s predecessor, said he remembers interviewing eight to 10 people for the chief operating officer role. In fact, LaGrange said he’d already picked who he wanted to hire as his eventual successor. Still, he had one more interview, a breakfast meeting with Christian.

“She totally blew me away with the interview,” LaGrange said. “She came in and began work as my COO in 2015 with new ideas that were very exciting.”

Early projects included a new master plan for the port and pursuit of a new terminal below the Crescent Connection Bridge, which limits the size of vessels able to call on the port’s existing Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal.

“We knew the port had to grow downriver,” LaGrange said.

Beyond her leadership of the port, LaGrange also praised Christian and her family for embracing the culture and communities of Louisiana and New Orleans.

LaGrange said he expects the port to continue with the LIT project full speed ahead, calling LIT essentially necessary to “stop the bleeding” of losing the competition over containers to Houston and Mobile, Ala.

“I think the commissioners are going to want to maintain a steady pace,” he said. “They want to keep that momentum going.”

“Our key strategic initiatives, chief among them the $1.8B Louisiana International Terminal, will continue forward without interruption through this transition,” Christian said. “Recently, we were awarded $300 million in federal funding for LIT, the largest federal investment in a new container terminal in U.S. DOT history. That is on top of $800 million in private funding commitments from our partners TIL, the largest ocean carrier in the world, and Ports America, the biggest terminal operator in the country.  We are currently in the permitting process and on track to begin construction in 2025.”

Walter Leger Jr., chairman of the NOPB Commission and the port’s board of commissioners, echoed that commitment in the port’s official announcement of Christian’s departure.

“We cannot overstate the exemplary leadership that Brandy Christian has provided throughout her tenure,” Leger said. “Under Christian’s guidance, Port NOLA has navigated through profound challenges and achieved remarkable successes. Chief among those successes is the leadership team that Christian has assembled and nurtured to carry Port NOLA and NOPB forward. Through her vision and leadership, Christian has positioned Port NOLA to regain its place as the premier destination within the global supply chain as we embark on a transformational economic development project in the Louisiana International Terminal.”

While the port embarks on a search for a new chief executive, Port NOLA’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Ronald Wendel Jr., will serve as acting president and CEO of the port and acting CEO of the railroad. Wendel, who also joined Port NOLA in 2015, has led the effort to improve the port’s bond rating, finance more than $260 million for the port’s capital investment program and help secure $800 million in private funding commitments for LIT from the forthcoming terminal’s operator, Ports America, and Terminal Investment Limited.