Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday named Geraldine Knatz, the managing director of the Port of Long Beach, as the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Assuming she is confirmed in coming weeks by the Harbor Commission and the L.A. City Council, Knatz will take over from interim Executive Director Bruce Seaton, who assumed the post after Larry Keller resigned in September 2004 amid growing community unrest over port operations and allegations of "pay-to-play" involving port lease contracts.

Knatz has spent much of her career at the Port of Long Beach. Prior to assuming the managing director post in 1999, she was the port's planning director for 11 years. She has helped plan the port's $2.3 billion capital improvement program and has been one of the principal architects of the port's environmental policies.

Over the last 18 months, the Port of Long Beach has experienced rapid growth in container traffic. Growth at the Port of Los Angeles stalled after shippers diverted traffic to other ports following congestion woes during the summer of 2004.

"Geraldine Knatz not only brings vast knowledge of the industry and stellar credentials, but also the leadership and high energy that will make the Port of Los Angeles the most desired port for trade in the world. She shares my belief that making the Port of Los Angeles greener is not only right for surrounding neighborhoods but also good business for Los Angeles," Villaraigosa said in a statement.

Villaraigosa campaigned for mayor promising to reduce pollution at the port; since becoming mayor, he has announced intentions to convert trucks and trains to cleaner-burning fuels and to have ships use portside electric power when anchored.

Knatz' appointment came after a year-long search that ended with three finalists. The other two were Tay Yoshitani, deputy executive director of the Port of Los Angeles during the administration of former Mayor Richard Riordan, and Stacey Jones, the current deputy executive director of the port. Upon confirmation, Knatz would be the first woman to head a major U.S. port.

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