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​The Port's Commitment to Diversity

At the Port of Seattle, diversity is viewed as a source of possibility and strength. It is not an initiative or campaign. Rather, it is integral to policy, processes and programs that are woven into all daily activities within the port community.

Strategic Mission

The Port assures that diversity is synonymous with our mission, goals and values. Originally adopted by the Port commission in 1998, we now are developing a third edition of a port-wide Strategic Development and Diversity Plan. Watch for it on these pages in the months to come!

Hiring and Onboarding

The Port’s employment team actively seeks diverse talent pools in the hiring process. Once onboard, employees learn about the importance of diversity at the port in our new employee orientation.

Employee Development

Onboarding is only the beginning of employee development. Regardless of profession and background, employees have access to a wide range of development opportunities and diversity competencies are integrated into all of our leadership courses and other class offerings. These competencies are considered during performance reviews.

Employee Groups in Action

Since 2005, the port has sponsored a Development and Diversity Council whose chosen members participate in activities to increase the awareness of diversity at the port. This council collaborates with other employee networks including Blacks in Government, National Management Association, and Port-Wide Pride to sponsor a variety of inclusive internal and community events. Additionally, the port recognizes employees who actively demonstrate a dedication to inclusivity and awareness of diversity with the annual “Charles Blood Champion of Diversity Award.”

Our Commitment to the Region

The Port’s Office of Social Responsibility (OSR) partners with our diverse community on projects such as the Small Contractors and Suppliers program which provides small businesses access to opportunities at the Port. Beginning in 2008, OSR also has teamed with Human Resources and Development to run a successful Veterans Fellowship Program designed to assist veterans transitioning from military service to civilian employment.

We understand that diversity encompasses a wide range and depth of cultural, gender based, philosophical and racial spectrums, and will commit to embrace, relate to, and value those qualities and conditions that are different from our own.”

- Port of Seattle Inaugural Diversity and Development Council

A culture of inclusion

Retired reservist salutes the Port for supporting those who serve​

Brad Benson.jpg

While Port of Seattle aviation project manager Brad Benson (pictured second from the left) was serving in Iraq with his National Guard unit he received monthly e-mails from Port CEO Tay Yoshitani. 

Those e-mails helped to connect Benson to his job back home while he risked his all to serve his country.

“Through the most difficult experiences of my life, this organization has been behind me,” said Benson, “everyone - from the top on down.”

It wasn’t just those messages that provided reassurance while he was in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knew that he didn’t need to worry about his family because his Port benefits continued to provide coverage during his deployment. And he knew that his job would be waiting for him when he returned.

In appreciation, Benson has successfully nominated all of his supervisors and some Human Resources staff for Patriot Awards.

“If anyone had told me that 9/11 was going to happen and that I would be deployed three times during the resulting conflict, I wouldn’t have believed it,” said Benson, who retired from the National Guard in 2015 with the rank of major. All told, he marks 32 years of military service that began when he joined the Army right after high school.

For the past 16 years, Benson has served the Port’s Aviation Project Management, spending nearly three years of that time overseas.

“Not once have I ever been questioned about that,” he said. “This is an absolutely wonderful place to work - completely supportive of your National Guard or Reserve career - understanding and appreciative of it.”

Benson recently served on a panel, describing the value of employing those in the National Guard and Reserve. These citizen warriors could not defend and protect without the continued promise of meaningful civilian employment for themselves and their families.

“My service always enhanced my work for the Port. I learned followership in the military, which is critical in any organization. I also learned mentoring and coaching. It all happens in the daily life of someone in the military. Military people are adaptable and have situational awareness. We learn to do it. Do it at night. Do it with half the people. Do without any sleep. Do it without any food. And still accomplish the goal.”

Thanks to dedicated employees like Benson, and to those who support their military service, the Port has received the Department of Defense’s Freedom Award, one of only a handful of employers in the state recognized for the support given to staff members who serve.

Gracias for giving back!                          

Efrain Lopez“I volunteer to serve my community because it’s in my heart, and meaningful to me.”

Efrain Lopez faced obstacles growing up in South Central Los Angeles, with its high crime rate, gang activity and financial distress. “Because of what was going on around me, I had a negative outlook and there was no positive role model to emulate, so I dropped out of school in the 10th grade,” he said.

But through the AmeriCorps program, which places young adults in service positions where they learn work skills and earn money for education, he changed the course of his life. “Americorps taught me to be more self-motivated, learn efficiently and to show initiative,” he said. Through that experience he got his first employment with a contractor operating and maintaining passenger loading bridges at airports.

Today, he works for the Port of Seattle as head mechanical maintenance engineer for baggage equipment at Sea-Tac Airport, and pursues a passion for volunteerism and community involvement. “Being active, advocating for others, making a difference, and voicing my opinion are all important ways to contribute,” he said.

Over the past 20 years, his volunteer work benefited kids who needed a helping hand, and the Latino community in general. He volunteers at Ronald McDonald House, managing photography at family brunches. He is chair of marketing and events for Latinos Unidos de South Sound, giving visibility to the needs of Latino residents.He also is known for wearing his “charro” mariachi suit to Seahawks games to show his Latino pride, and working with the Wenatchee High School Mariachi Band.

At the Port he is founder and co-chair of the new Latinos Unidos, served as co-chair of the Port's Development and Diversity Council, and helps organize the Port’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month observance.

When new Americorps workers visited the Pacific Northwest recently, Lopez invited the group to tour Sea-Tac. “As someone who was helped by a youth program, I am passionate about giving back to my community,” Lopez said. During the visit, he shared about his background, his journey and career path.

“I volunteer to serve my community because it’s in my heart, and meaningful to me,” he said. For him, community service is a calling. “I was an underprivileged kid, but I found a bridge to become a skilled Port of Seattle worker with a family wage job.”

Port employee lends his voice

"I feel honored that people allow my voice to be in the vicinity of their hearts..."

“Ever since I had a voice, I have been singing,” said Port of Seattle employee Carlton Williams. For him, the singing voice came when he was only nine years old.

In the years since, he sang before five presidents and first ladies; at Seahawks, Mariners and Storm games and at venues around the world and at home.

During his 20-year military career with the U.S. Air Force, he traveled around the United States and to several other countries as a vocalist with the Air Force Ninth Division soldiers’ chorus, and as vocalist/emcee with the Air Force 45-piece concert band and jazz ensemble. After retiring from the military, he continued to sing for occasions such as weddings, funerals, military memorial services and at school Veteran’s Day events.

He said people in his audiences periodically will ask him to perform at an event they are planning, such as a woman who requested he sing at her husband’s funeral.

“She and her husband had watched me sing on local television together before he passed away. For me, singing for that family was much more powerful than performing for the presidents,” Carlton said. “It’s amazing how fortunate I am to keep meeting new people with new circumstances, and am able to be of service to them in this way.”


Williams performed at the 2016 Memorial Day service in Chehalis, which he described as “a humbling experience.” Even though he has performed before many large audiences over the years, Carlton said he most loves singing in small and intimate settings, where the music can speak for itself. “I feel honored that people allow my voice to be in the vicinity of their hearts at occasions like this,” he said.

Williams joined the Port of Seattle in 1999 and worked in various departments. Currently he is a ground transportation control agent at Sea-Tac Airport, overseeing taxi and limousine operations. At the airport, he is known for frequently sharing his a cappella singing style at Port events, and for his warm, outgoing personality and dedication to friendly customer service. 

Woman firefighter shares her story      ​

Lisa Kolwitz

Only about six percent of career firefighters in the United States are women. Among them is the Port of Seattle’s Lisa Kolwitz.

As a child, Kolwitz watched her parents advocate for soccer and recreational opportunities for girls—their commitment reinforcing her own passion for athletics.

“Because of my parents, I believed I had equal opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do. They raised me to be anything I wanted to be. In turn, I hope my experience can be an inspiration for girls today to consider a non-traditional career,” she said.

Witnessing firefighters resuscitate her ailing mother first piqued her interest in firefighting. “I saw it as a way to combine my athletic background with my desire to help people,” Kolwitz said. “In a male-dominated field, I think women often can enhance the care, compassion and comfort we offer to patients during a crew response.”

Her biggest challenge and most exciting moment was participating in and graduating from the Washington State Fire Training Academy in 2000. Soon thereafter, she joined the Port of Seattle Fire Department.

She has been with the department for 16 years and during the past two, took on the role of overseeing the airport’s fuel inspections and enforcing code compliance. With the recent growth at the airport, fuel use has increased dramatically, she said, which demands twice as much of the fuel inspection team.

To Kolwitz, the airport fuel system is similar to a human body—with the fuel tank farm like a heart, the fuel hoses like arteries and fuel like the blood of the airport. “That’s why taking care of this system is so critical to the airport.”

She told this analogy to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) inspector during the annual fuel system and safety compliance audit at Sea-Tac. She said the inspector liked the analogy so much that he used it in his briefing at the end of the weeklong assessment, which resulted in high marks. Kolwitz was nominated for the Port of Seattle’s 2016 Women’s Outstanding Awards due to her efforts and the ability to be adaptative to the increased demand for airline fueling and her collaboration with the FAA. She was one of the four women honored earlier this year.

"I feel extremely honored and grateful to be nominated and recognized by the Port of Seattle,” she said. “I am highly supported by my wife, Carlene, and I appreciate that the Port of Seattle welcomes diversity, not only with respect to their employees, but also their families.”


Read feature stories on how women veterans enrich the culture of inclusion at the Port.


Employee Resource Groups at the Port of Seattle 

Blacks in Government Development and Diversity Council Latinos Unidos
Military and Veterans at the PortPort-wide PrideNational Management AssociationPort Association of Volunteer Employees (PAVE)