NEW ORLEANS – When Terri Edwards reported to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Port of New Orleans on March 30, the port was in a state of uncertainty. Mayor LaToya Cantrell had just issued a stay-at-home order in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the city.
In response to the order, CBP New Orleans launched an aggressive telework policy, allowing many of their employees to work from home. Officers who could not work from home were placed on alternating schedules to minimize risk of contracting the virus.
“I was determined to hit the ground running and make sure that our workforce had all of the protective equipment needed in order to perform their duties safely, and do everything possible to minimize their risk of being infected with COVID-19,” Edwards said. “Throughout the past four weeks, I have witnessed employees, both uniformed and non-uniform, going above and beyond. It makes me extremely proud to lead such an excellent workforce.”
Despite the challenges that came with maintaining the Port of New Orleans mission during the COVID-19 pandemic, Edwards, formerly the Director of CBP’s Analytical Management Systems Control Office (AMSCO) in Washington D.C., said her experience as Port Director has been rewarding, and she has learned a lot about the mission and the people who maintain the mission. To date, the port has hired more than 30 new officers while continuing to process cruiseline crew members and repatriating U.S. citizens returning home due to the COVID-19 threat. Additionally, the port has also supported local and federal law enforcement in facilitating legitimate travel and trade throughout Louisiana.
“I believe that the Area Port of New Orleans is in a great position right now,” she said. “We are bringing in a lot of new officers who are eager to get to work. One of my main goals is to keep them motivated and ensure that they have all of the tools and resources necessary to get the job done. I want New Orleans to be known as one of the best places to work in CBP!”
CBP New Orleans Director of Field Operations Steven Stavinoha added that Edwards coming to New Orleans also has a deeper value.
“Knowing the cultural and diverse value that the City of New Orleans represents in the United States, I am proud to have Ms. Edwards accept this new chapter in her career and congratulate her in her new leadership role as the first African American female Port Director in New Orleans.”
Being the first African American female port director in a city known for having a historically diverse culture is an honor she said she doesn’t take lightly.
“I’m proud to work for an agency that embraces diversity,” she said. “We all have something different to bring to the table, and in my opinion, that’s exactly what makes us stronger and better as an agency.”
It is that strength, she said, that will get CBP New Orleans through this pandemic.
“I’ve never backed away from a challenge,” she said. “I believe that is how we learn and become better officers. I’m looking forward to the resumption of normal business operations. I believe that we, as a nation, have learned a lot from this pandemic. We will emerge from this much stronger!”
The Port of New Orleans is located in the historic U.S. Custom House, located on Canal Street in the Central Business District of New Orleans. Its area of operation covers 250 miles of the Mississippi River, including ports of entry in Gramercy, Morgan City, Shreveport, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge.