An attorney living in Suffolk specializing in maritime law has been selected to fill a vacancy on the Virginia Port Authority Board of Commissioners.
Deborah C. Waters, whose firm is in downtown Norfolk, was appointed to the port board by the McAuliffe administration last Friday.
And she hit the ground running, attending her first work session and meeting on Monday and Tuesday.
“The whole region depends on the port,” said Waters, who grew up in the Western Branch section of Chesapeake.
She and her husband first lived in Suffolk in 1972, and they’ve lived outside Chuckatuck since 2001.
Waters’ father was a railroad engineer. “I grew up watching him — literally sitting on my dad’s knee when he was switching cars over in Portsmouth.”
The cargo her father hauled came from or was bound for the port, and so Waters said she was “really aware of the importance of the port” from a very young age.
According to a profile on the website of her business, the Proctor of Admiralty — a prestigious title conferred by the Maritime Law Association of the United States — focuses on maritime civil litigation, representing clients “in all types of maritime claims.”
She was recently admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar, a rare honor in the law. She said she was among a group of lawyers that put together an amicus curiae — or friend-of-the-court — brief to encourage the court to accept a particular case.
Meanwhile, she was hired by crew members of the Maersk Alabama — attacked by Somali pirates in 2009 — in a civil case, has represented the International Longshoremen’s Association, and was appointed to a committee for litigation connected to the BP oil spill.
Waters says her appointment to the port board came unexpectedly. “Someone asked me if I would please apply, and I did,” she said.
As far as she knows, she’s the only attorney specializing in maritime law on the board.
“You can’t live in Tidewater without being aware that the port is here,” Waters said. “You can’t go over a bridge without seeing the ships and tugs and barges and Navy vessels going up and down the rivers and entering the harbor.”
Her goal will be to help the board make the port thrive, she said.
“We want lots of cargo going and out of here, because ultimately we would love to be the No. 1 port on the East Coast.”