Washington State Ferries Employee News

Read the May 2022 employee newsletter for Washington State Ferries.

Have an idea for this employee newsletter? Email WSFEmployeeComms@wsdot.wa.gov.

Scouts hold pinewood derby aboard Issaquah

More than 30 cub scouts and parents from West Seattle’s Scout Pack 799 traveled on our ferries to Vashon Island on Saturday, April 2, for their annual pinewood derby. This year, the event was held on water – aboard Issaquah, which was tied up at our Vashon terminal and not in service that day.

The scouts were having a difficult time finding an open venue to host this year’s derby and Todd Silver, a parent of one of the cub scouts and a chief mate on our Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route, thought that the tied-up Issaquah would be the perfect location to both host the event and show the cub scouts all the unique features of the vessel.

Several children on the empty car deck of a ferry near a track for a pinewood derby
Members of Cub Scout Pack 799 during their annual pinewood derby on April 2 on the car deck of Issaquah, which was tied up and out of service at Vashon terminal that day.

The scouts had a great time on board and wanted to say a special thank you to all our staff who volunteered their time to make the space safe and available, answered their questions and gave them tours of the vessel. Events like this help inspire the next generation of ferries employees!

What’s New at HQ?

Headshot of person
Brian Churchwell 
ITD Assistant Director  

Seven Puget Sound transportation agencies, including Washington State Ferries, are getting ready to deploy an updated ORCA card system this month. It will make it easier for our customers to manage their accounts both online and in person.  

There will be no change for WSF employees that were provided an ORCA card for commuting to and from work locations.

The $85 million project is guided by a regional program team. Each agency has their own project manager leading internal efforts. At WSF, our project manager is IT Revenue Systems Manager Roger Hair. 

But the success of this project, and any IT project, could not be achieved without the various IT staff managing the technology and the core business team managing the front lines. 

A big shout out to our core business team members who make sure their staff needs are represented and informed. They also develop key training and communication resources.  

  • Operations Team Leads – Shelly Sharp/Trevor Sharp/Brett Wolfe 
  • Customer Service – Jared Fernley/Marqise Allen 
  • Accounting/Revenue Control – Jamie Volpone 
  • Internal/External Communications – Dana Warr/Justin Fujioka 
  • Training Lead – Allen Scott 

For IT, we want to introduce you to a few members from our revenue support and applications team who are playing key roles in the new ORCA rollout: 

IT Application Support Specialist Jeremy Bill is on the front lines every week, working with our terminal staff to maintain our Wave2Go revenue collection system’s hardware. For ORCA, he is the lead in swapping out the readers at our turnstiles and point-of-sale devices. Jeremy, and many of our other hardware technicians will have the challenge of swapping out the readers in less than two weeks to minimize customer impact. 

Two people posing in front of a turnstile they are working on
IT department employees Jeremy Bill and Roger Hair installing new turnstiles at Colman Dock with new ORCA readers.

IT Business Applications Supervisor Joel Giese oversees our vehicle reservation system, making sure it’s operating each day. But his team also has the challenge of developing a new handheld to be deployed with new ORCA that will redeem Wave2Go and ORCA fares, along with vehicle reservations in a single application. This is long overdue as many of our existing handhelds were deployed in 2009 and cause our terminal staff so many challenges. 

Nathan Rogers is our IT tester for our Wave2Go and ORCA system. He has the tough job of reproducing errors reported by front-line staff and regression testing for upcoming releases. He has spent endless hours testing our point-of-sale devices and turnstiles to make sure new ORCA’s integration into our existing system is working seamlessly, including testing at Colman Dock for our pilot. 

Dane Lillpop is our IT Wave2Go support specialist. We are lucky to have Dane, who came from our terminals and has a good understanding of the needs of our staff. For new ORCA, Dane is responsible for maintaining the Wave2Go menus, reviewing and implementing new tariff changes and providing support for the Wave2Go handhelds. 

Three people at a ferry terminal with one holding a handheld ticket scanner
IT department employee Dane Lillpop (right) testing a new handheld at Fauntleroy terminal. 

Huge thanks to our IT team for everything they do to keep our revenue and reservation systems operating. Be on the lookout for the new ORCA card going live at WSF and across the Puget Sound! 

Employee Spotlight

Headshot of person wearing a safety vest directing traffic at a ferry terminal
Andrea Leon Mack
Ticket Seller/Attendant

Andrea Leon Mack likes to see safe, attentive drivers. That’s because she works in between traffic at our Seattle terminal. But over the past four years as a traffic attendant and toll fare collector, Andrea has also seen her share of near misses, and even a few collisions. That’s why she always remains alert and takes the proper precautions to maintain a safe environment.

Despite the dangers, Andrea says her job is exciting, unique, rewarding and challenging. Because things are always moving, she says she must be flexible, as you never know what can happen.

Things that make Andrea nervous at work include drivers talking on a cell phone, or small children unbuckled and in the lap of a driver or passenger.

“When you’re driving onto the vessel it’s really important to pay attention, make that eye contact, look at where the traffic attendant is directing you, what lane you’re going into,” says Andrea. She added that it’s vital for drivers to remain focused on what’s happening in front of them to ensure the safety of everyone at the terminal.

Away from the terminal, Andrea loves to travel and spend time with her family. She has two daughters that are recent graduates of the University of Washington and grandchildren in Montana.

View a video profile of Andrea.

Nautical Numbers

Here are some numbers that recap what we did in April:

1,399,250 total riders

  • 707,696 drivers (with vehicle)
  • 691,554 passengers and walk-ons

10,640 trips completed

60,374 service miles

97.8% trip reliability

229 medical priority loads/medevacs

3 lifesaving events

31 training courses held for employees

34 whale sightings

In the News

These employees were in the news in April:

15 vessel employees complete WSF New Mate Orientation

Fifteen of our vessel employees recently completed our New Mate Orientation, a comprehensive training program that can take more than two months to complete and requires a robust set of prerequisites and experience.

To join the program, hopeful mates must be licensed and have completed at least six months of employment with us. They must also earn an all-route pilotage endorsement, obtain a Federal Communications Commission radio license and complete all initial vessel familiarization checkoff forms for each vessel class.

Three people working in front of several monitors
Capts. Ben Berke, Noah Landau and Gabe Gaubert create training and assessment scenarios on the simulator.

While in the program, participants spend time in our radar lab and the deck simulator at Seattle Maritime Academy, take classes on a variety of subjects and undergo skill assessments at Pacific Maritime Institute. About 20 licensed deck officers including captains, chief Mates and able-bodied sailors served as instructors, mentors and hosted fleet field days for hands-on learning. 

Our new mates are now eligible to work as chief mate. Even with the rigorous training they completed last month, our new candidates will need continued support from our current licensed deck officers, especially while learning to safely navigate the oddities and quirks of our wide range of ports and vessels.

If you have questions about our New Mate Orientation, please contact Port Captain Jay Mooney at mooneyj@wsdot.wa.gov. The New Mate Orientation program usually occurs once a year in January, but another class can be held in the fall based on demand.

What Do You Think?

What should be the name of this employee newsletter?

We received nearly 60 name suggestions last month for this newsletter. Thanks to all who participated. We’ve narrowed the suggestions down to 10 and here’s your chance to select your favorite!

Visit our Survey Monkey link to vote through Thursday, May 19!

The winning name will appear atop our June newsletter!

From Our Social Media Feeds

Tweet with most impressions (times it shows up in somebody's timeline) on @wsferries Twitter account in April:

Screenshot of tweet showing a person working atop of the mast of a ferry




What’s Up at WSDOT?

Keller Ferry

If you’re wondering about the WSDOT ferry that doesn’t sail in the Salish Sea, an update on the vessel was posted to our employee intranet site insideDOT in April.

Sanpoil, the vessel that operates our Keller Ferry, had its annual inspection with two members of the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday, April 6, and let’s just say it was “ferry impressive.” Congratulations to Ferry Operator John Miller, Ferry Operator Assistant Ray Peone and Senior Ferry Operator Jack Kwiatek, who passed the inspection with flying colors.

During the inspection, crews conducted a couple of emergency drills. The team demonstrated proficiency in a person overboard drill by tossing a life ring in the Columbia River then used a rescue basket to retrieve the ring. The crew also had to add water to the below compartments to make sure the emergency warning devices and pump to empty the water were working properly.

Vessel crewmember prepares the lift to recover a life ring
A Keller Ferry crewmember prepares the lift to recover the life ring during a person overboard drill.

In addition to the demonstrations, the Keller Ferry team was interviewed about how to fight a car fire on deck. The crew on board also checked all the safety systems on the vessel such as the radio, navigation lights, operator license, steering system, engine room, fire suppression system for the engine room and the deck.

Great job to our ferry partners in Eastern Washington!

Happy Public Service Recognition Week!

Celebrated annually during the first week of May, Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) is time set aside to honor those who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local government employees. 

WSDOT has a diverse workforce consisting of highly talented individuals with a strong dedication to service – and the Washington State Ferries staff is a prime example. Our employees ensure the safe travel of millions of riders across our waterways each year, while providing exemplary customer service. The hard work and dedication of our team is recognized every day, but especially during PSRW.

In celebration of PSRW, the Seattle Mariners are providing discount tickets to state employees for the game on Saturday, May 7, versus the Tampa Bay Rays at 6:10 p.m.

Our people are the heart of this agency. Thank you for your service and for keeping Washington moving forward!

Welcome Aboard!

Recent deck hires:

  • Allegra Archer
  • Cameron Badley
  • Brando Balisi
  • Kyle Bevan
  • Cole Bray
  • Cole Brundige
  • Carlos Chan
  • Mason Emley
  • Richard Hansen
  • Greggory Hughes
  • Diana Johnston
  • Bowen Kellogg
  • Stephen Koch
  • James Kuran
  • Claire Ludwig
  • Sally Martin
  • Jonathan Nason
  • Raymond Navarette
  • Heather Quiton
  • Charles Rouse
  • Rudolph Ruzicska
  • Cody Sullivan
  • Steven Tapangco
  • Shawn Thomas
  • Brandon Torres
  • John Trubiano
  • Ashley Ulrich
  • James Walsh
  • Donald Wirt

Recent oiler hires:

  • John Apple
  • Simone Demich
  • Evan Griffith
  • David Katz
  • Samuel McQuarrie
  • Robert Myers
  • John Peterson
  • Koby Schinman
  • Nicholas Twietmeyer

Recent terminal hires:

  • Eric Aurelius
  • Edgardo Baltazar
  • James Boatwright
  • Rubens Chung
  • Garrett Coleman
  • AnnaStacia Colton
  • Robert Davidson
  • Sofia Deluna
  • John Dillon
  • Kari Freer
  • Danielle Kack
  • Zeth Larson
  • Vincent Moniz
  • Jerald Olney
  • Evan Osburn
  • Sandra Pelkey
  • Justine Romero
  • Debby Schaffer
  • Victoria Sellers
  • Ryan Silva
  • Tyler Slattum
  • Jessica Waterbury
  • Mathis Watson
  • Michele White
  • Matthew Williams
  • Mary Wolfe
  • Nicholas Wood

Recent HQ hires:

  • Matthew Baker
  • Danny Giroux
  • Emily Harmon
  • Vi Vien
  • Zhiliang (Leon) Wang
  • Mark Weeks

We’re Hiring!

Have an idea for this employee newsletter? Email WSFEmployeeComms@wsdot.wa.gov.

Zero emission electric vehicle registrations in Washington

increased 192% between 2017 and 2021.

45 projects to improve freight rail structures and freight movement

were underway as of December 31, 2021.

Washington state leveraged $100,000 to secure $27 million

in funding for airport investments in Fiscal Year 2022.