Port of New Orleans Board of Commissioners Elects Walter J. Leger Jr. as Chairman

Leger headshot

NEW ORLEANS- March 21, 2024 Today, the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA) selected new officers with the election of Walter J. Leger Jr. to serve as Board Chairman, James J. Carter Jr. as Vice Chairman, and Sharonda R. Williams as Secretary-Treasurer for a nine-month term. With the alignment of the Port NOLA and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, Port Commissioners and officers also serve on the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission.

Leger succeeds Joseph F. Toomy, whose nine-month term as Chairman ended today. Toomy will continue to serve on the Board as a commissioner.

During Toomy’s time as Chairman, Port NOLA has made significant progress on the $1.8 billion state-of-the-art Louisiana International Terminal (LIT). That includes a monumental announcement earlier this year that Port NOLA has been awarded $300 million in landmark INFRA and MEGA grants to assist in building LIT, the largest federal investment in a new container terminal in US DOT history.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as a Commissioner and Chairman of the Board for the Port of New Orleans on two occasions, as well as a Commissioner and Chairman of the Board for the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission,” said Joseph Toomy. “I am proud of the remarkable milestones we have achieved, the partnerships we have strengthened and the challenges we have navigated. As I transition from this role, I have full confidence in the capabilities of our incoming leadership to build upon our successes and move this region and the state of Louisiana onward and forward. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to my fellow board members, port staff, stakeholders, and the community for their unwavering support throughout my tenure."

Additionally, Toomy played a pivotal role in leading gatherings with the five Port directors and their Board chairs on the Lower Mississippi to identify more pathways for synchronicity with state leaders to increase international trade. Collectively, the five Lower Mississippi ports comprise one of the busiest port complexes in the world.

“We want to thank Joseph Toomy for his dedicated service as Chairman of our board,” said Brandy D. Christian, Port NOLA President and CEO and CEO of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB). “Joe has brought decades of invaluable experience and exceptional vision that has not only elevated our port's standing within the industry but has also positively impacted the communities we serve.”

Leger joined the Board in July 2020 when he was appointed by then Governor John Bel Edwards. A prominent attorney and respected legal expert, Leger serves as the Senior Partner in the law firm of Leger & Shaw. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana State University and completed his legal education at Tulane University School of Law, where he graduated with a concentration in Maritime Law. Early in his career, Leger worked as an admiralty associate at the Phelps Dunbar law firm, and later formed his own firm dedicated to admiralty and complex litigation, including the Hard Rock Hotel litigation, nationwide opioid litigation, the BP Oil Spill case, and the Castano Tobacco litigation to name a few.

“I am honored to serve as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the Port of New Orleans and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission,” said Walter Leger Jr. “I look forward to working alongside my fellow board members, port staff and our stakeholders to continue our work of guiding future maritime and infrastructure investments that will transform Louisiana’s economy for generations to come.”

Leger is the past President of the New Orleans Bar Foundation and the New Orleans Bar Association. The Louisiana Bar Journal named him a “Louisiana Legal Legend.” He received the “President’s Award” for leadership and public service from the New Orleans Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the Louisiana Association of Justice.

Leger has also tirelessly served the people of his community and Louisiana as a whole. He is a past Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Regional Chamber of Commerce, Co-Chairman of the MetroVision Regional Economic Development Partnership, and the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Louisiana Committee of 100 for Economic Development, the Southeast Louisiana Business Council Coalition, the New Orleans/Baton Rouge Super Region Committee, and the Board of Trustees of the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the Louisiana Cancer Research Center.

In addition to service as Vice Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the Louisiana Land Trust and Co-Chair of the St. Bernard Citizen's Recovery Committee, he has or currently serves on the Boards of GNO, Inc., the World Trade Center, the Business Council, the New Orleans Bar Association, the New Orleans Bar Foundation, the LSU Health Science Center Foundation, the Delgado Community College Foundation, Nunez Community College Foundation, Tulane Cancer Center, and the LSU Cancer Center. Leger was also recently elected Board Chairman of the St. Bernard Chamber of Commerce for the fourth time.

He served as Chairman of the St. Bernard Economic Development Foundation and as a founding Director of GNO, Inc. Leger has been named "Volunteer of the Year" by both the Southern Economic Development Council and the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association. The Louisiana State Bar Association has given him its “Citizen Lawyer Award.”

“Walter Leger brings a wealth of maritime and legal expertise to the Port of New Orleans Board of Commissioners,” said Christian. “We look forward to his thoughtful leadership as Port NOLA continues its mission to grow the New Orleans global gateway.”

The Port NOLA and NOPB Commission Boards consist of seven members. They are unsalaried and serve five-year staggered terms. The Governor of Louisiana appoints members from a list of three nominations submitted by local civic, labor, education, and maritime groups. The Board reflects the Port’s three-parish jurisdiction, with two members from Jefferson, four from Orleans and one from St. Bernard.

Commissioner Joseph F. Toomy and Commissioner Todd P. Murphy represent Jefferson Parish; Chairman Walter J. Leger Jr., Vice Chairman James J. Carter Jr., Secretary-Treasurer Sharonda R. Williams, and Commissioner Darryl D. Berger represent Orleans Parish; and Commissioner Jeanne E. Ferrer represents St. Bernard Parish.