Cotter Steps Down as Hancock Ports CEO; LaFontaine takes the reins

Lafontaine photo headshot resizing

Blaine LaFontaine

Hancock County Port and Harbor CEO William “Bill” Cotter is retiring at the end of the year.

Cotter has been with Port and Harbor for 23 years in a variety of roles including Stennis International Airport Director, the agency’s Chief Operations Officer and CEO since 2021.

“After a lifelong career in aviation and business development, I’ve decided it’s time to take a break and refocus my energies,” said Cotter. “My wife and I want to enjoy retirement and spend more time with our children and grandchildren.”

The Ports and Harbors Commission accepted Cotter’s resignation and recommended current COO Blaine LaFontaine as the next CEO effective January 1, 2023. The Hancock County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to accept the recommendation.

“Hancock County and the wider region benefited from Bill’s dedicated service,” said LaFontaine. “Over the next six months we will continue to work together to ensure a seamless transition. We have exciting opportunities ahead of us and we will continue to build on the success that Bill’s leadership has brought.”

During his tenure as airport director, Cotter helped with the recovery of Stennis Airport from Hurricane Katrina and coordinated airfield activities during BP Deepwater Horizon’s response. Since 2005, he has overseen nearly $40 million in capital improvements at the airport, including construction of the air traffic control tower, aircraft hangars and terminal building. As COO, Port Bienville Industrial Park’s existing docks were renovated and upgraded, and construction began on a new 600-foot dock, which is expected to be completed later this year.

Among other things, Cotter was instrumental in attracting a number of businesses that led to the operation of the Tyonek Service Group in Hancock County. Department of Defense contractor performs maintenance, repair and overhaul work for military aircraft. It is one of 30 companies at the port and airport, which together employ almost 1,000 people. Cotter is also credited with bringing support for US military operations to Hancock County.

“Economic development is really about creating growth opportunities for our neighbors. Looking at the hangars and buildings, I’m impressed with the work we’ve done at Port and Harbor. But when I think of the hundreds of employees and the families who support them, when I see them in stores and restaurants around town, I’m proud of the impact we’ve had to make Hancock County one of the best places to live to do,” Cotter said. “I thank the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission and the County Board of Supervisors, past and present, for their support over the years. It has enabled us to make the airport and port the economic engines they are today.”

LaFontaine joined HCPHC in March 2021 as Chief Operations Officer/Port Director. In his current role, LaFontaine is responsible for overseeing the organization’s ongoing operations and procedures and development at the Port Bienville Industrial Park.

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