6/3 - Duluth, Minn. - With a head of gray hair and a full beard, Adolph Ojard
has the look of a sea captain.
It's perhaps a fitting look for the 63-year-old Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director, who is planning to retire later this year.
Ojard, a native of Knife River, has been on the Great Lakes in a variety of roles since his youth.
father, Adolph Ojard Sr.
, was the last master of the Edna G. tugboat, once the oldest operating tug in the United States, which now serves as a floating museum in Two Harbors.
grew up working on his
dad's commercial fishing boat and the Two Harbors ore docks.
He went on to work in the shipping and railroad industries across the Great Lakes before taking over Duluth's top port position 10 years ago.
"It was kind of a natural progression," Ojard
"It was a nice transition from the private sector to the public sector, and it's nice to be able to end my career here in my home port, in this industry I have been involved in for so many years."
Ojard recently announced that he will be retiring from the Port Authority later this year after a successor is found, likely around September.
plans to spend more time with his
children and grandchildren, who live in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
As port director, it has been Ojard's job to promote and advocate for Great Lakes shipping and local economic development.
He has testified before Congress about issues related to the Great Lakes, serves as president of the American Great Lakes Ports Association and chairs the U.S. delegation of the American Association of Port Authorities, an organization that represents and lobbies for ports throughout North and South America.
"There's an old adage: 'A rising tide lifts all boats,'" he
"When I think of a ship entering the Great Lakes
, I think of it as one harbor.
There are docks in Cleveland and Detroit, and of course Duluth-Superior.
Once here, the ship needs to maximize its voyage.
The Great Lakes
is just one big harbor with a number of docks."
Ojard, a 1971 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth, spent more than 30 years working around the country with U.S. Steel in rail, inland barging and shipping executive positions.
He served as president of the Warrior Gulf Navigation Company in Alabama and later became general manager of both the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway and the Great Lakes Fleet in Duluth, a position he held until taking over as port director in April 2003.
prepares to retire, civic leaders and those in the shipping industry say his
successor will have big shoes to fill.
Steve Rauker, president of the Port Authority board and a St. Louis County commissioner, said Ojard has filled the big shoes left by his predecessor, Davis Helberg, who served in the same position for 24 years.
"As is generally the case from a policy vantage, managers are more often than not either workhorses or show horses, and I would classify Adolph
as a workhorse who preferred to get things accomplished versus taking the bows."
A national search will take place to find candidates for the position.
feels that the Port Authority
will be in a good position for his
"The shipping industry is going to be with us for a long time," he
But Duluth Port Director Adolph Ojard says the St. Marys River, which connects Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes, needs work.
says this is a double-whammy with record low lake levels.
says this bill fixes that.
"Boy, I think it's significant.
What it further recognizes is in these low water conditions those authorized depths would be reflective of lake levels," Ojard
"So we would hopefully return to historical drafts for our vessels even in some low water level conditions."
Baldwin and Ojard
are keeping their fingers crossed it makes it through the U.S. House.