Deb DeLuca was named the executive director of the Duluth Seaway Port Authority on Monday, becoming the first woman to hold the role.

After a nationwide search, the port authority’s board found its own environmental and governmental affairs director was “head and shoulders above the rest,” as commissioner Tony Sertich put it. The vote was unanimous.

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DeLuca takes over for Vanta Coda II, who joined the Ports of Indiana earlier this year; chief financial officer Kevin Beardsley held the role on an interim basis.

“We’ve set a good course, and we’ve got a full plate of projects,” said DeLuca, who will become the eighth executive director in the port’s history when she starts in her role on Thursday.

DeLuca joined the port in 2014 after many years running her consulting firm, DeLuca Strategies; she was also a founding board member of Minnesota Brownfields. She and her husband have lived in Duluth since 2006 and have two college-aged children.

“With her experience in the private and public sector, it’s a win-win for the community,” said St. Louis County Commissioner Patrick Boyle. “She has already laid so much of the ground work.”

DeLuca, 58, looks at the port’s opportunities and challenges on a local, regional and seaway-wide scale.

“Locally, we believe the big game will be growing the business surrounding the intermodal terminal,” she told the News Tribune. “That gives an opportunity for importers, exporters and manufacturers and assemblers to get their goods to the global marketplace. The biggest barrier right now is space - whether that’s managing our current space or expanding.”

The port authority is a public entity charged with promoting private trade and economic development. According to a 2011 study, the port of Duluth-Superior is directly responsible for nearly 3,000 jobs and supports an additional 8,000 in the region.

“We do play an economic development role - how can we make it more attractive for manufacturers, assemblers to locate in Duluth and be here, expand here?” DeLuca said.

On the larger scale, DeLuca said she wants to overcome the challenges of seasonality and look for partners to better take advantage of the shipping routes of the unsalted seas and beyond.

Of the 83 U.S. ports that are members of the American Association of Port Authorities, 14 now have women at the helm, according to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority.