Bringing it to the People

Jennifer Marusak named the Ports Association of Louisiana’s new Executive Director

This past October, the Ports Association of Louisiana (PAL) selected Jennifer Marusak as its new Executive Director. With a diverse background in transportation and governmental affairs, Marusak said that in this position, she hopes to draw more attention, civically and politically, to the vital role Louisiana’s port industry serves to the state and to the nation.

“It sounds cliché,” she said, “but the moniker is accurate — this is the industry that drives all industries in Louisiana. We need to bring that to the people, to really tout the industry — not just individual ports — but the entire industry as a whole.”

PAL is a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting the port industry through fostering relationships and communication between Louisiana ports, facilitating legislative efforts and representation towards policies supporting the interests of its members, promoting publicity efforts and research, and fostering economic development within Louisiana.

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A native of Natchitoches, Louisiana, Marusak is an alumnus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where she earned her B.A. in Criminal Justice and her M.A. in Mass Communication/Media Studies. Over the last twenty years, she has served in leadership positions including: Vice President of Government and Infrastructure of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Legislative Affairs Director at former Governor Mike Foster’s office, Executive Director of the Louisiana River Pilots Association, Confidential Assistant to the Secretary of State’s Office, Communications and Legislative Affairs Director of Driving Louisiana Forward and, most recently, Vice President of Governmental Affairs of the Louisiana State Medical Society.

“We’re very excited to bring Jennifer on board,” said Ports Association of Louisiana President Drew Heaphy. “She’s got a lot of knowledge in transportation and is bringing a lot of new and fresh ideas to the Ports Association.”

On Marusak’s fervor for increasing public consciousness about the port industry, Heaphy said, “I think Jennifer is really going to be able to bring a new level of awareness to citizens and politicians that ports are an economic driver to the state of Louisiana.”

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In her interview for the Executive Director position, Marusak says she proposed a grassroots effort to the executive committee, referencing her experience in former Governor Foster’s office, in which she visited civic groups in 62 of the 64 parishes on his behalf. “I proposed going to civic groups and talking in the community — stepping outside of the industry,” she said. “I’d like to go in and have the port directors with me, invite the legislators, get the community fired up. And discuss the industry as a whole while highlighting what that specific port is doing in that community. When you get the legislators support, you get their constituents’ support as well. Which translates into bigger and more investments for the ports program.”

Director of West Calcasieu Lynn Hohensee said that though they had a lot of promising candidates, the executive search committee felt that in Louisiana’s current maritime climate, the Association would benefit most from Marusak’s specific skill set. “Jennifer has demonstrated experience working in transportation, but she also has very strong communication skills,” he said. “I feel that she really has the ability to bring to voters the message of how important these ports are in the economy of the Pelican State.”

Ultimately, Marusak said that she hopes to personalize the perceptions of the port industry. “At the end of the day, it’s about people, not just steel and industry,” she said. “It’s about jobs, the economy, the quality of life for everybody in the state. If we didn’t have our port system, you wouldn’t have your neighbors. You wouldn’t have your community.”

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