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Meet the Man in Charge of Reopening Baltimore's Port

Jonathan Daniels, an experienced crisis manager, is getting Baltimore’s port back in business.

Jonathan Daniels, Executive Director, Maryland Port Administration
David Kidd
Editor's Note: This article appears in Governing's Spring 2024 magazine. You can subscribe here.

Jonathan Daniels was just seven weeks into his new job as executive director of the Maryland Port Administration when a container ship collided with a support pillar on Baltimore’s Key Bridge. He only began to appreciate the scale of devastation as he drove into work, seeing that the bridge was gone and finding out that six people had died.

Daniels is no stranger to big challenges. He helped rebuild port activity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and managed Port Everglades in Florida as the cruise industry suddenly bottomed out during the pandemic. But the Key Bridge collapse presented an entirely different challenge. “I don’t think anything truly describes the level of catastrophe,” Daniels says.

In the months since, he has worked with the feds to reopen the channel and begin moving ships. The port is key to the regional economy. More than 9,000 people normally work there. Last year, they moved around 850,000 automobiles, among other cargo. Daniels had been hired to help expand the port’s business. Now he’s working overtime to bring the cargo back as it reopens.

Despite the tragic start to his tenure, he says he’s been impressed by the resolve of workers and regional leaders to revive the port. “I made the right decision coming here,” he says.
Jared Brey is a senior staff writer for Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @jaredbrey.
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