When did you first become interested in military service?
I grew up on Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. My father was a Vietnam veteran near the end of his career. My first sort of introduction to the Coast Guard was right around that time – a fourth-grade field trip to a Coast Guard station where I got a good look at a Cutter. Looking back, it was only a 210-foot Cutter, but at the time it seemed huge and really caught my interest. Since my dad was military, I was accustomed to the idea of one day being in the military. But the ships were pretty intriguing.
Tell us of the most interesting experience while serving in the Coast Guard.
My time in Washington, D.C. was among the most fascinating of my career. The Coast Guard sends teams all over the world to train countries in keeping a Coast Guard, and as diplomatic envoys where the Department of Defense is unwelcome. I was sent by the Department of State as part of its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Program to Georgia – the country – and to Azerbaijan.
I was also part of a U.S. delegation to the European Union. As I was the only person among a group of senior American diplomats in uniform, the EU dignitaries congratulated him with a handshake. They assumed I was in charge. The experience was great because it really taught me the value of how our Coast Guard is viewed.
Describe your family life during your time in the Coast Guard.
In Kodiak, Alaska, my wife found out she was pregnant again. She’s a runner, and we’d always run around the base there together. One day I beat her and she said, “that’s not right.” She’s usually faster than me. We went to the doctor, and at the 15-week sonogram appointment found out it was twins. That tour was amazing.
It was incredible to find out about my boys and to get these 80-day deployments to the Bering Sea, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t bear seeing my wife on the pier with my two-year-old daughter in her pink coat, the double stroller with the boys, and our Labrador and know I was leaving them for almost three months.
I decided to pursue Sector assignments, cognizant of the needs of my growing family. I would still be deployed, but not at sea for months on end. My first post was Moorhead City, North Carolina, then back to D.C.
Tell us more about your experience joining TOTE.
My Admiral asked me to handle all the next-of-kin coordination between the Coast Guard, TOTE, and the families after the sinking of the El Faro. I was so impressed with the integrity, the transparency, and the compassion TOTE showed the families. In 2017, I decided to retire as a Section Commander in Jacksonville. I just kept thinking about the El Faro and decided it was time to try something new.
The alignment of TOTE’s core values was so easy for me. TOTE is very similar to the Coast Guard in terms of culture. I work with such amazing people. I just love coming to work.
I spent a total of 27 years on active duty in the Coast Guard before joining TOTE Services almost two years ago. Following the retirement of Rear Admiral Phil Greene, Jr. in January, I assumed the role of President.
How is the Jones Act important to the work that you do?
It’s critical for us to continue to understand the importance of the Jones Act to TOTE and Saltchuk – and everyone who’s part of the Saltchuk family of companies. Among other things, the Jones Act requires goods ferried between U.S. ports to be carried on ships built, owned and operated by U.S. citizens. Critics cite additional expense and complications surrounding disaster relief. The reality is that the Jones Act is a critical element of national economic security. Those facts, and the real need for a robust U.S. maritime industry, need to be highlighted at every opportunity.
What made you so committed to serving others?
I’m not the one who spends much time thinking about where I’ve been – I would summarize my career so far by saying that I’m proud of my 27 years of Coast Guard service to others. In the president role, you really work for a lot of people. You work for the employees and you’re making decisions for the long-term health of the company. For me, it’s about taking pride in that service every day. It’s been supremely rewarding to me already. This is the best place I could’ve ended up. I feel very fortunate.