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Photo provided by St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District Elton J. LeBlanc, a 37-year member of the St. Bernard Port’s board of commissioners, third from left, recently ended his tenure. With LeBlanc are, from left: the Rev. Henry Ballard, board of commissioners vice president; Drew Heaphy, St. Bernard Port executive director; Harold Anderson, board of commissioners president; and Larry M. Aisola Jr., board of commissioners member.

Much has changed since the St. Bernard Port, Harbor and Terminal District purchased and redeveloped the site of the old Kaiser Aluminum plant in the 1980s. While the Port has continued to increase in size and cargo capacity, one thing has remained the same throughout all the change and growth over the last several decades and that is the service of Elton J. LeBlanc, a longtime member of the Port’s board of commissioners.
LeBlanc, a charter member of the Port’s commission who has served continuously for the past 37 years, officially ended his tenure in July.
Appointed to the commission by the late Sen. Sammy Nunez in 1981, LeBlanc is the longest serving member of the board, having led as president seven times during his tenure.
As a board member, LeBlanc was instrumental in making many of the decisions that have led to the Port’s great success. One such accomplishment is his active involvement in the Port’s purchasing of the land on which it resides.
“When we first became a Port we only did domestic commerce, but after Sen. Nunez created a state law stating that once we owned the property we resided on we could do international trade, we ended up buying the Kaiser plant, and it just grew from there,” LeBlanc said.
The fact that the Port has grown to be a thriving business where close to 2,500 men and women make a livelihood is something LeBlanc takes great pride in. He is quick to point out that the St. Bernard Port has the only slip in the Lower Mississippi River system where ships can get out of the river into calm waters to unload and load, and that it is one of only six deep-water ports in the state, along with the Port of South Louisiana, Port of New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish Port, Harbor, and Terminal District, the Port of Greater Baton Rouge and the Port of Lake Charles.
St. Bernard Port’s maritime facilities, which include Arabi, Chalmette and Violet Terminals/Industrial Parks, as well as Chalmette and Meraux Mid-Stream Mooring Facilities, move approximately 8 million short tons of cargo each year.
“It took many years, but it all grew from nothing to something,” LeBlanc said.
From the days when the Port was run out of one small office, to present day when the Port is considered to be part of the largest shipping corridor in the world, continuing to attract larger ships with greater cargo, LeBlanc was there, helping to ensure everything stayed afloat.
“We put a down payment on the land, and things got so rough at first that we had to take and tear down the old Kaiser buildings and sell them for scrap just to pay the monthly note,” LeBlanc said. “The Port doesn’t get as much fanfare about where we are at today as it deserves, but its growth has been amazing.”
A native of New Orleans and a resident of Meraux, LeBlanc, 87, grew up in the Ninth Ward near the Industrial Canal. An electrician by trade, LeBlanc ran Chalmette Electric for 65 years and now works with his son at LeBlanc Electrical Services. He and his wife, Patricia Laborde LeBlanc, have four children between them.
LeBlanc, who served his country with the Naval Construction Battalion Seabees and fought in the Korean War, says his service on the board is among his greatest accomplishments.
“That’s part of my legacy. I have given them 37 years of service,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some real great leadership at the Port over the years and even now.”
Commissioners like LeBlanc do not receive any compensation for their service, but he says he would gladly do it all over again.
“The biggest thing that people can’t understand is that I don’t get paid for what I do. That’s the way I always wanted it,” LeBlanc said. “I figure if you’re going to do something, it needs to be from the heart and for the right reasons.”