The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has chosen Assistant Secretary of the Army Rickey “R.D.” James to receive the 2020 Port Person of the Year for his dedication in leading the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to streamline processes for maintaining and improving America’s civil works infrastructure, including its deep-draft shipping channels.

“After accepting the nomination to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Army, Mr. James committed to ‘move dirt,’ setting in motion his vision to build and maintain infrastructure better and faster than in the past,” said AAPA President and CEO Chris Connor. “He has increased efficiency across the Corps’ regulatory spectrum, enhancing consistency and pushing decision-making back to the Corps districts, rather than having those decisions centralized at headquarters in Washington, D.C.”

Connor remarked that the initiatives being advanced by Mr. James improve the Corps’ partnership with its non-federal sponsors and stakeholders, such as ports. “In particular, the Revolutionize USACE Civil Works initiative, which takes bold actions to improve Corps performance and engineer solutions for the nation’s toughest challenges, is the embodiment of Mr. James’ priorities,” he said.

Cathie Vick, chief public affairs officer for The Port of Virginia in Norfolk, said her port has personally experienced James’ project streamlining approach as the Norfolk Harbor Deepening and Widening project transitioned to the construction stage last year. “Under Mr. James’ direction, we’ve been empowered to accelerate the project construction by as much as 18 months, with a focus on results rather than process,” she said. “Moving forward, the port industry will continue to benefit from his leadership as more projects are completed more efficiently and effectively, and he continues to achieve the Administration’s goal of securing long-term reforms for how infrastructure projects are regulated, funded, delivered and maintained.”

James was sworn in on Feb. 5, 2018, as the Corps’ 12th Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. He is charged with establishing policy direction and supervising all the functions relating to the Corps’ Civil Works program. These include programs for conservation and development of the nation’s water and wetland resources, flood control, navigation and shore protection.

Previously, James was a self-employed farmer and manager of cotton gins and grain elevators for the A.C. Riley Company, in New Madrid, MO. On Dec. 1, 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the Mississippi River Commission for a nine-year term, after which Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama each reappointed him to successive nine-year terms.

AAPA will present the Assistant Secretary of the Army his “Port Person” award at the 2020 AAPA Spring Conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 18, where he will also present remarks. James’ presentation will follow a luncheon and keynote address by Axios Co-Founder and Executive Editor Mike Allen, who will discuss his predictions for the 2020 U.S. elections.