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Leadership

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President

Paul Matthews

Executive Director, Port of South Louisiana

Paul Matthews is the Chief Executive Officer of the Port of South Louisiana, America’s Leading Grain Exporter and one of the Largest Tonnage Ports in the Western Hemisphere. His tenure began in January 2022.  Matthews made history by becoming Louisiana’s first African-American port director. Prior to his time at the Port of South Louisiana, he served as Deputy Port Director at Plaquemines Port Harbor and Terminal District. He joined Plaquemines Port in 2017 after serving as the Community Affairs Manager at the Port of New Orleans.

As CEO, Matthews has been leading the Port of South Louisiana by maintaining many of the Port’s successes and growth. Under his direction, the Port of South Louisiana has focused on leading the way in the areas of agriculture, infrastructure and the energy transition. Since his arrival, the Port has secured millions in state and federal funds, renewed the long-term leases with multiple industry partners and has entered into an agreement that will foster the construction of Louisiana’s first grain terminal in 40 years, with capital investments of over $600 million and creating more than 200 permanent jobs.

During his career, Matthews helped negotiate multi-million-dollar terminal leases and facilitated the development of a private-public partnership to expand rail service while at the Plaquemines Port. He also assisted in securing millions of dollars of federal port security and dredging funds and was involved in attracting grants for critical port infrastructure projects. Matthews also promoted international engagement by establishing dialogue with the U.S. State Department, Department of Commerce, and United States trade representatives to expand port presence in developing countries in Southeast Asia, South America, West Africa, and India.

Matthews is the current Vice President of the Ports Association of Louisiana and a member of the Executive Board of Greater New Orleans, Inc. He is the immediate past Chairman of GNO Inc. NextGen Council. Matthews was awarded the 40 under 40 Award by Inland Marine Expo and was highlighted in Biz New Orleans Magazine’s New and Notables. He is a member of various maritime and civic organizations, the World Trade Center of New Orleans & Board of Directors of United Way Southeast Louisiana, as well as a member of several American Association of Port Authorities Committees.

Matthews is a graduate of Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans, Tulane University, and received an MBA from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

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Vice President

Weldon M. Danos

Executive Director, Grand Isle Port Commission

Weldon M. Danos was appointed as executive director of the Grand Isle Port Commission in November 2020.  Danos has held various management level positions domestically and internationally in the Oil & Gas, Marine, Chemical and Refining Industries. He has held the position of Secretary from 2022-2024.

Located on Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island, the Grand Isle Port Commission regulates commerce and traffic at Grand Isle’s Port. The island is a hub for the petroleum industry, commercial fisheries and tourism, and the Port serves to promote safety and commerce of Grand Isle and the surrounding waters.

In his role as Executive Director, he is responsible for overseeing the daily activities of the Port’s mission to promote safety and commerce of Grand Isle and surrounding waters including the petroleum industry, commercial fisheries, and tourism. His accomplishments have included obtaining the funding and overseeing the largest project in the history of the GIPC including the Pier & Bulkhead Repair at the Port’s Commercial Dock located on Bayou Rigaud. Additional activities have included obtaining grants for hurricane public assistance critical projects and the expansion of the AOC Aquaculture Oyster Farms.

The Grand Isle Port Commission has successfully lobbied for and secured millions in funding for numerous dredge projects including multiple dredge projects of the federal navigation channel including Barataria Pass and Bayou Rigaud. Although considered a shallow water port, Grand Isle has one of the highest tonnages of any shallow water port in the state. The port continues to improve navigation around the island and strives to rebuild and protect our coast and vanishing wetlands.

Danos holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Life Sciences & Technology from Nicholls State University, an Associate of Science Degree in Occupational Safety & Health from Delgado University, and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Rice University.

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Treasurer

John G. “Jay” Hardman, P.E.

Executive Director, Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission

John G. “Jay” Hardman, P.E., was appointed as executive director by the Greater Baton Rouge Port Commission in November 2006. Hardman has held a number of key staff positions since joining the port in May 1999 as the director of engineering and environmental services and then its managing director.    
 

In his role as executive director, he is responsible for the port’s day-to-day management of the port. Hardman, along with the port commission and other port stakeholders, have the responsibility to build on the port’s mission of supporting international and domestic commerce and facilitating economic development.   
 

In recent years, the port has made significant improvements to its marine assets to meet the growing demands of transportation and trade in local industry.  Hardman has been responsible for the design and implementation of more than $100 million in infrastructure improvements to the port’s general cargo docks, road and rail. He has also been involved in enhancing port security measures and designing and developing new economic development projects such as the wood pellet plant, bulk sugar storage and distribution complex, container-on-barge facility, Maritime Security Operations Center and other improvements and rehabilitation projects at the port’s Inland Rivers Marine Terminal and other upgrades to the port’s public maritime infrastructure.

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Secretary

Ben Russo

Executive Director, Central Louisiana Regional Port

Ben Russo ...

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Executive Director 

Jennifer L. Marusak, MA, CPE

Ports Association of Louisiana Executive Director

Jennifer L. Marusak, M.A., C.P.E, was named the executive director of the Ports Association of Louisiana in October 2018. 

 

In addition to joining the association management team, Marusak leads PAL’s governmental affairs and lobbying efforts. She is also tasked with partnering with the local port representatives to implement an effective grassroots strategy with civic organizations that will showcase Louisiana ports to the Legislature and community stakeholders. 

Marusak was named as one of the Power 20 Top Leaders in the Maritime Industry in the New Orleans region by New Orleans CityBusiness in 2024.

Governor Jeff Landry appointed her to the Louisiana Pilot Oversight board in 2024 after Governor John Bel Edwards initially appointed her to the Board in 2021. She now serves as Vice President of the Board.

 

After attending extensive and intensive course work, Marusak earned the designation of Certified Port Executive.

 

Marusak was previously vice president of governmental affairs for the Louisiana State Medical Society (LSMS). In that role, she led the lobbying and grassroots advocacy efforts for more than 7,000 physicians across the state and served as the executive director for LAMPAC, the political arm of the LSMS. 

 

Marusak also previously served on the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council and the Prescription Monitoring Program Advisory Council. 

 

She also owns and has operated "On Track with Marusak" since 2000 - the longest operating online news clipping service in the state. 

The Natchitoches native holds a bachelor of art’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Louisiana-Monroe (formerly Northeast Louisiana University). 

 

Previously, Marusak was the spokesperson and chief lobbyist for Driving Louisiana Forward, a coalition of business organizations across Louisiana advocating for better intermodal infrastructure. She also formerly served as confidential assistant, press secretary, and legislative affairs director for both Secretary of State Al Ater and Secretary of State Fox McKeithen, executive director of the Louisiana River Pilots Association, legislative affairs director and communications director for former Governor Mike Foster, and as government and infrastructure vice president and communications director for the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. 

Jennifer also served on the Louisiana State Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Board of Directors for 13 years, two of those as chair. 

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Deputy Director 

Candace L Griffin 

Ports Association of Louisiana Deputy Director 

Candace L. Griffin, C.P.E. began working with PAL in August 2015 as the organization’s Association Manager. She was named Deputy Director in January 2018 and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization, finances, and management of its special events.

 

In 2017, Griffin earned the designation of Certified Port Executive under the instruction of the MACDONNELL group’s Certified Port Executive Program.  She also holds a B. A. in English, with a concentration in professional writing from the University of New Orleans.

 

The St. Bernard Parish native is also the owner and operator of Griffin Consulting & Professional Services, LLC; a small business specializing in public relations and nonprofit management. She has been in business since 2014.

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