New Port of Virginia chief named
Stephen Edwards of L.A.-based TraPac LLC to replace Reinhart
Stephen Edwards, a Los Angeles-based CEO with more than two decades of maritime industry experience, will be the Virginia Port Authority’s new CEO and executive director, the authority’s Board of Commissioners announced Wednesday. Edwards, who will start his new post Jan. 19, replaces retiring CEO and Executive Director John F. Reinhart.
A U.K. native, Edwards is currently president and CEO of TraPac LLC, which operates container terminals in the ports of Los Angeles and Oakland, California. He will oversee the Port of Virginia, one of the state’s largest economic engines. He was the “immediate and unanimous” choice of the board, said John G. Milliken, chairman of the Virginia Port Authority Board.
Reinhart announced in May that he planned to retire in March 2021 after more than six years at the port’s helm. During his tenure, the port started and completed a nearly $800 million expansion of its terminals in Hampton Roads, as well as starting a $350 million dredging project last December. After its completion, which is expected in 2024, Norfolk Harbor will be the deepest and widest port on the East Coast and will be able to handle more ships and containers. During Reinhart’s tenure, the port took on a $1.5 billion capital spending program, including a $350 million investment by the state.
“Stephen is taking the helm of a 21st-century port and the fifth largest in the nation,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in an address following the board’s announcement of Edwards’ hiring. He welcomed Edwards to the state and the port.
“I hope that Virginia can teach me a lot. I hope it works together very well,” Edwards said during a news conference via Zoom. Of the port and his new job, he added, “This is not surgery or turnaround; this is taking it to the next level.”
Under Reinhart’s leadership, “the Port of Virginia has put all of the pieces in place for long-term success,” Edwards said in a statement. “The goal is to take these collective assets and put them to work to the benefit of customers and cargo owners while attracting new business, jobs and economic investment to Virginia. I look forward to continuing this positive momentum and leading the port to greater heights in the coming years.”
“I have high hopes for the leadership Stephen Edwards will provide at the Port of Virginia,” said Stephen Moret, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. “He brings everything we were looking for in an apt successor to Mr. Reinhart. Under the leadership of Mr. Edwards, I expect the Port of Virginia will continue its great run of success as it helps drive forward Virginia’s economy.” Moret serves as an ex-officio member of the authority’s board, and Reinhart, as the port authority’s chief, serves in a non-voting capacity on VEDP’s board. Edwards will take over Reinhart’s seat when he joins the authority next year.
In a statement, Virginia Chamber President and CEO Barry DuVal said he looks forward to “working collaboratively with Stephen Edwards, in his role as CEO and executive director, and supporting the Virginia Port Authority to continue to lead in an increasingly competitive landscape. With more than 20 years of experience in the maritime industry and a track record of positive growth, Stephen will serve the port and the commonwealth well.”
Both Moret and DuVal acknowledged Reinhart’s legacy in turning around the port and making it profitable again after it had lost $120 million between 2009 and 2014. In 2016, Virginia Business named Reinhart its Virginia Business Person of the Year.
“I’m so grateful to John Reinhart for what he and his team have accomplished over the last several years at the Port of Virginia,” Moret said. “He leaves very big shoes to fill. Chairman Milliken and others on the search committee did a fine job searching the globe for a highly experienced, collaborative leader to succeed John.”
“Replacing someone like John Reinhart is no easy task — his leadership since 2014 has elevated the port’s standing in both domestic and international trade,” DuVal said in a statement. “John has been a champion for Virginia trade, leveraging Virginia’s assets to grow our state economy.”
Like most other industries, the port has encountered significant challenges this year, between the U.S.-China tariff wars and the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted manufacturing and trade. “The pandemic knocked us flat down,” Reinhart said this summer in an interview with Virginia Business. “There are very unsettled waters in front of us.”
Salaries were frozen and bonuses suspended earlier this year, but no furloughs were required, and the port operated at full capacity while reducing weekday gate hours and eliminating weekend gate hours due to lower cargo volumes.
In addition to overseeing the port, Edwards will also play an important role in Virginia’s clean energy economy. The state will allocate $14 million in settlement cash from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust for the port to replace all-diesel cargo-handling equipment with zero-emission, all-electric equipment, Northam announced this summer. Other new, all-electric equipment — including ship-to-shore cranes and yard tractors — will be installed at other port facilities.
Before leading TraPac, Edwards was CEO of Global Container Terminals, president and CEO of Ports America Group, and president and CEO of P&O Ports North America.