Duluth Seaway Port Authority names Deb DeLuca as its first female director

(DULUTH, Minn.) —  A woman will be at the helm of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority (DSPA) for the first time in the organization’s 60-plus year history.

The DSPA board held a special meeting Aug. 13 and unanimously appointed Deb DeLuca as executive director, effective Aug. 16. DeLuca has served as the Port Authority’s government and environmental affairs director since 2014.
“A key ingredient of a successful organization is effective leadership,” said Port Authority Board President Ray Klosowski. “We are fortunate to have had a history of strong leaders at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. We are adding another chapter to that legacy in naming Deb DeLuca as our new executive director. Staff and board members appreciate her thoroughness, her leadership style and her profound commitment not only to the mission of this organization but also to the well-being of our entire Port community.”

The search committee reviewed dozens of applications and interviewed a series of highly qualified candidates from across the United States in multiple rounds of a rigorous selection process, said Tony Sertich, DSPA commissioner and search committee chairman.

“One candidate rose above the rest,” Sertich said. “Not only does Deb DeLuca possess the management expertise we were seeking, but she also is heavily invested in this community. She is a person who values collaboration and takes into account the opinions of all stakeholders. Those connections will undoubtedly help inform strategic planning and decision-making here at the Port Authority going forward.”  

DeLuca brings decades of public and private sector experience to the job. She has spent the past four years tracking regulatory issues and legislation for DSPA, the Port of Duluth-Superior and the Great Lakes-Seaway system. In that role, she represented the port’s interests to policymakers at local, state and federal levels of government and to environmental, economic development and community development organizations. DeLuca currently chairs the Harbor Technical Advisory Committee (HTAC) for the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council, serves on the Executive Committee of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and represents the Port Authority on the Mayor’s Economic Development Coalition. Earlier this year, she was one of just 36 civilians selected to participate in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, a public liaison program of the U.S. Department of Defense.

In directing brownfield assessment and cleanup efforts to support the Port Authority’s industrial development program, DeLuca has been responsible for procuring a portfolio of grant funds matched to Port Authority needs. Most recently, she spearheaded a comprehensive study through the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) to analyze and benchmark Duluth's industrial economy, focusing on its potential to drive diversified economic growth across the community. A final report and key findings will be presented to the community this fall. 

DeLuca thanked board members for placing their confidence in her to lead the organization. “I am honored by this appointment and accept the position with great enthusiasm,” DeLuca said. “It has been a privilege to work for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority during what have been four of the most growth-driven years in its history. Being selected as its executive director only deepens my commitment to this organization, to the Twin Ports community and to the Great Lakes-Seaway system that this port so honorably serves.” 

A noted expert on redevelopment projects and environmental policy, DeLuca was a founding board member of Minnesota Brownfields. As owner and principal of DeLuca Strategies for 14 years prior to joining the Port Authority, she provided consulting services to public, private and nonprofit sector clients in the arenas of grant writing, implementation of funding strategies, project management, government relations and public outreach. She began her career at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture after which worked with the MPCA, becoming supervisor of its Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program in 1996. A graduate of UW-Madison, DeLuca earned a bachelor of science degree in molecular biology and a master's in land resources (environmental chemistry and policy) from the UW Institute for Environmental Studies. She is an outdoors enthusiast and former U.S. national cycling team member. DeLuca and her husband, Eric Dott, have lived in Duluth since 2006 and have two college-aged children.

In accepting the position, DeLuca becomes the eighth executive director in Duluth Seaway Port Authority history, following in the footsteps of former directors Robert T. Smith (1957-67), David W. Oberlin (1967-69), C. Thomas Burke (1969-77), Paul Pella (1977-79), Davis Helberg (1979-2003), Adolph N. Ojard (2003-13) and Vanta E. Coda II (2013-18). Since Coda’s departure in February, CFO Kevin Beardsley has served as interim executive director.

By Professional Mariner Staff