Interview by Hewan Mengistu
At the Port
How long have you worked here at the Port?
I have been working at the Port for 8 years. Prior to my career at the Port I worked at Hertz car rental, which was still located in the Sea-Tac Airport garage [before the opening of the current Rental Car Facility]. Working there is what led me to meet Dewey Bennet, who works in Aviation Maintenance. One day he told me that there was an opening at the Port and that I should apply.
What led you to work here at the Port?
The Port was recognized in the region as a top employer and it was exciting opportunity to work for a great organization. The pay and the benefits are also great.
Tell us more about your role here at the Port?
I assist David Freiboth, who is the Senior Director of Labor Relations. We have a team of four Labor Relations Managers, an Analyst, and myself. I support them and their work negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the labor unions that represent respective groups of employees across the Port, getting contracts settled, and the analysis process it takes to help run the department.
Prior to my current role, I worked for the Director of Aviation Security, Wendy Reiter. I supported Wendy on several levels including assisting the new Full Employee Screening Team. Wendy’s work in Security was on an international level which allowed me to plan multiple international business trips. Wendy’s role even included testimonies to Congress in Washington D.C., which I helped support.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is getting to meet and network with other colleagues. Our work takes us on a broad spectrum across the Port. Our offices are at Pier 69, but we support Fishermen’s Terminal, the airport, and many other Port facilities. Our work represents 23 different bargaining agreements and over 1,000 employees Port-wide.
What would you say are some of the big changes you’ve seen at the Port or within your department?
I have seen a lot of changes when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The Executive Leadership Team and directors really have a hands-on approach to making sure that they are supporting a diverse workforce.
What are some of your favorite things you have gotten to do in your role?
I’ve appreciated that can participate in continuing learning programs and courses, such as pre-law courses, training in project management, and administrative conferences that really make me a stronger employee.
Have you ever participated in any of the Port’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)?
I have participated in National Management Association, Blacks in Government, ASAP (All Support at the Port). Participating in these ERGs, especially NMA, introduced me to leadership at the Port. It was instrumental in getting me promoted to my current role.
Any events or fun activities over the years that have been particularly memorable?
Volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House with the NMA was memorable and rewarding. We were able to donate over 1000 pairs of shoes to the homeless. I also worked with Sue Hansen Smith to help coordinate Wings for Autism, which was awesome.
Do you have any points of your career that you would consider milestones?
Working for an executive, I have reached my highest peak so far at the Port. I am at the highest I have ever been professionally, and I can see it continuing especially as I further my education.
Outside the Port
Tell us more about you, have you lived your whole life in Seattle?
I am originally from Columbus, Ohio, and have been in Seattle for 10 years. Seattle was in my top three places to move. It was going to be Boston, New York, or Seattle. At the time, you did not really hear about a lot of people migrating to Seattle. It wasn’t a popular place for people to move to. It was not this heavily populated area at the time. Clearly that has changed because look at the traffic now! I love the water in Seattle. I love the beauty of the region and that it is an inclusive part of the country for the LGBTQ community. That is important to me because I came from a very conservative place where diversity was not as celebrated.
When you’re not here at the port, what do you like to do in your free time?
I love interior design. Interior design is my joy and has become a creative outlet for me. I have taken on new interior design clients, and I am studying with plans to have website and blogs up by the end of the year.
What is one thing that no one else knows about you?
I started swimming in high school and I became really good. I was on the swimming and diving team in high school and I was a fantastic diver. I had newspaper articles and multiple write ups during my day. I was also awarded a swimming and diving scholarship.
If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be
Expressive. I do not know strangers. My favorite part of working for the Port of Seattle is sitting down and talking to people and having a good time.