James T. McDermott Jr. Executive Director of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority since 1994, Announces Impending Retirement
James T. McDermott, Jr., Executive Director of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA), announced on Wednesday, September 23 that he will retire from the Authority next year. When he retires on April 15, 2016, he will have served at PRPA for 25 years, almost 21 years of that as its Executive Director.
Mr. McDermott joined PRPA as its Chief Counsel in 1991, following working as an Assistant District Attorney for the City of Philadelphia since 1980. He was appointed Executive Director on May 13, 1994, with his new role initially envisioned as a temporary one while a national search for a port director was undertaken. In short order, however, the PRPA Board, the Governor’s office, and the Pennsylvania legislature decided to keep Mr. McDermott at the Port’s helm.
In the letter he wrote to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to announce his retirement, Mr. McDermott stated that, “I have enjoyed my time at the Port Authority and I am very proud of the collective work we were able to accomplish on behalf of the Port, the City, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
That work included getting PRPA on its feet during the earliest days of its creation (when the state-sponsored PRPA replaced the city-run Philadelphia Port Corporation in 1990); presiding over the complex Delaware River Channel Deepening Project; and- currently- advancing PRPA’s Southport Project, the first major expansion of the Port of Philadelphia in decades.
These were only some of the highlights of his tenure. During his past two-plus decades at the Port, Mr. McDermott served under six governors, and was able to work with all of them, as well as their respective legislatures, to advance innumerable capital projects and initiatives to grow the Port and its cargoes. On-dock warehouse space, the complement of container cranes, highway and rail access to the Port, and the amount of liner services and trade lanes serving the Port, were all greatly enhanced under Mr. McDermott’s watch. A new food distribution center, the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, was also funded and constructed under Mr. McDermott, and currently holds the record for the largest indoor refrigerated space in the United States.
Mr. McDermott also provided a steady hand during the national economic downtown of 2008, stressing the importance of continued investment and aggressive marketing during a time when Philadelphia and many other major US ports were taking big hits to their cargo levels. The Port of Philadelphia came out of that period better than most ports, and in fact is now stronger than ever. 2014 was the sixth consecutive year of double-digit cargo growth at the Port of Philadelphia.
During his tenure, Mr. McDermott traveled the world and met countless steamship line executives, heads of state, international manufacturers and growers, and so many others in his efforts to promote the Port of Philadelphia and its use by the world shipping community. A highlight was meeting Fidel Castro in 2004 and participating in the establishment of limited but very concrete commercial ties between Pennsylvania and Cuba, well in advance of the current US initiative to reach out to that nation.
Mr. McDermott has received numerous awards and accolades from the industry he came to love so much, including the Friend of Chile Award from the Chilean and American Chamber of Commerce; Man of the Year by both the Philadelphia Maritime Society and the Traffic Club of Philadelphia; and the Scout Mariner Award by the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Upon leaving in April 2016 (which will give Governor Wolf and the board of PRPA time to identify a successor), Mr. McDermott plans to enjoy his retirement along with his wife Susan, another longtime public servant of the Commonwealth, their two daughters Kate and Reese, and their many family members and friends.
In the conclusion of his letter to Governor Wolf, Mr. McDermott said, “I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve your administration and, upon my retirement, I will have worked in the public sector since September 2, 1980, and enjoyed every minute of it.”