Washington State Ferries Employee News

Read the June 2023 edition of Ferry Tales, the Washington State Ferries employee newsletter.

Watch the April 13 Spring WSF All Staff Meeting recording here

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

A co-worker and a professional wrestler

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Randy Zellers
Terminal Attendant

It’s not every day you get to meet a professional wrestler… let alone call one a co-worker.

Well, everyone at Washington State Ferries can say just that about Kingston Terminal Attendant Randy Zellers – known as TI Kwon Bro in the ring.

At his day job, a friendly and down-to-earth Randy makes sure the bridges and planks at our dock are ready for service. He helps travelers get on and off the ferry safely and keeps the facility tidy and secure. Randy was a familiar face to many on our central and south Sound routes until recently transferring to Kingston.

But Randy also knows how to get rough and rowdy with nun chucks as a wrestler with Northwest Pro. He’s come face to face with many opponents, hurling them across the ring as fans holler and cheer from the side. You can watch Randy in action at various locations across the Pacific Northwest and California but mainly at the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn, Washington.

Randy has been interested in wrestling since he was a kid. Several years ago, he attended a live professional wrestling event as a spectator and had a light-bulb moment.

“I was just like, oh wait a minute… this is just like a play, but only professional wrestling gives the excuse that it will be Halloween 365 days a year,” Randy said. “It’s just another excuse to put on a costume and play somebody… I can do this.”

Image of promotional poster of five people in wrestling costumes
Terminal Attendant Randy Zellers (aka TI Kwon Bro) with his nun chucks on a poster for an upcoming professional wrestling event.

With a first-degree black belt in Taekwondo, Randy was ready to strike. He started out with Snoqualmie Championship Wrestling before landing with North West Pro in 2018. Since then, he’s quickly gained a lot of success, winning a title last year.

To prepare for a match, TI Kwon Bro gets in the zone by listening to music and running a couple laps. Then he meets with his fellow wrestlers to go over the game plan of getting the crowd riled up for an action-packed evening. According to Randy, when you’re in the ring, you’re telling a story.

Whether at one of our terminals or a wrestling event, Randy enjoys meeting and talking with people. He’s been with WSF for a little more than a year and says the work schedule allows him to be flexible.

“I can afford to do things for myself and my family,” Randy said. “Throughout the whole season, I’ve been on the same shift because it works out for me. We’ll see what the future has for me here. I have a funny feeling I’ll be staying around here for a real long time.”

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Todd Lamphere
Finance and Administration Director

What’s New at HQ?

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the 2023-2025 state budgets last month. They provide strong support for our aging infrastructure, recruitment, workforce development and employee compensation.

More than $500 million of the transportation budget will go to capital investments, including continued funding to electrify our ferry system.

We also received funding to help increase vessel maintenance by adding a new second shift at our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility, project controls and additional apprenticeships.

The budget also includes an increase in funding to help stabilize operations with investments in our workforce that help advance staff to licensed positions, create scholarships and reduce barriers to entry for deck and engine room crew.

As far as employee compensation, most will see general wage increases on July 1, 2023, with another bump on July 1, 2024.

In addition, some statewide job classes will see salary range increases on July 1, 2023, due to the recruitment, retention and other challenges for these positions.

All employees are also eligible for a voluntary one-time lump sum $1,000 COVID-19 booster incentive paid on July 25, 2023, or later. Employees should submit proof of voluntary booster using Med+Proctor. (The state is required to take taxes out of this payment amount before applying to paychecks).

A few employees are also eligible for an increase in night shift premiums starting July 1, 2023.

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John Miller
Marine Operations Watch Supervisor

Employee Spotlight

John Miller says his well-rounded maritime experience prepared him for his current job.

Following a couple of seafaring jobs and a 26-year career with the U.S. Navy, he returned home to work as one of our marine operations watch supervisors.

Watch supervisors manage our ferry system around the clock, every day of the year, assisting vessels and terminals with all operational needs. They also communicate to stakeholders any problems, such as service disruptions or mechanical needs.

John says a big part of what he does is prioritization. “I may get eight calls, one right after the other, and I have to make decisions about how those are communicated out, based on their urgency,” he said.

Along with vessel emergencies, medical calls are at the top of John’s list as emergency medical services rely on us to get to trauma centers with critical patients. When our watch supervisors get a call for a medical transport, they work with EMS to get the patient aboard as fast as possible based on where our boats are and what delays might be happening.

In addition to answering and making numerous phone calls, our watch supervisors also coordinate boat moves and serve as crew dispatch after hours.

“My goal at the end of the day is to get crew, passengers and vessels home safely,” John said. “And if we can do that and carry passengers and keep the schedule, that’s all a bonus.”

In his time off, John says he likes to think of himself as a fly fisherman. He enjoys getting on the water – or just being outdoors – whenever he can and loves to paddleboard on Puget Sound on a beautiful morning.

View a video profile of John.

Nautical Numbers

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

1,648,651 total riders

  • 804,588 drivers (with vehicle)
  • 844,063 passengers and walk-ons

12,085 trips completed

65,583 service miles

97.7% trip reliability (based on scheduled trips)

203 medical priority loads/medevacs

3 lifesaving events

45 whale sightings (38 of them orcas)

Next WSF all-staff meeting Thursday, June 29

Our next all-staff meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 29.

We’ll give a brief presentation on current topics like service restoration, the outcomes of the 2023 state legislative session and what we heard during our recent public meetings. We’ll also present this year’s WSF Teamwork Award.

On the day of the meeting, click here to join. We’ll also send out an email with information on how to connect later this month. If you’re unable to attend, a recording will be made available. A recording of our spring all-staff meeting is posted at the top of our Ferry Tales webpage.

You can submit a question at any time before the meeting to wsfemployeecomms@wsdot.wa.gov.

First-ever career day for highschoolers

We hosted nearly 100 students at our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility on May 4 for our first-ever career day for high schoolers interested in maritime and the trades.

Students from five schools around the Puget Sound region got to tour a ferry wheelhouse and engine room, as well as Eagle Harbor’s various trade shops and hear what it’s like to work at our terminals.

Ferry employee speaking to three people dressed in firefighting gear
We had a hands-on demonstration for the students to learn about some of the safety gear and equipment we use on board our ferries.

The event could not have been possible without the support of the entire Eagle Harbor team, along with numerous deck, engine room and terminal employees who spoke about their jobs and answered questions.

After the tours, students asked our onsite human resources team about how to get jobs at WSF after graduation. Educators were also grateful to learn what kind of skills we’re looking for so they can help students prepare for a career in maritime or the trades.

We plan on hosting more events like this in the future. In the meantime, since the idea for this event came from the fleet, we want to hear from you about what else we can do to improve recruitment. If you have suggestions, please email wsfemployeecomms@wsdot.wa.gov.

Construction Corner

Anacortes Terminal Tollbooth Replacement Project

Construction started May 1 on four new tollbooths at our Anacortes terminal. They will replace the existing ones that are more than 50 years old.

The new tollbooths will add storage, technology connections and an employee restroom to make it easier for employees to operate in for extended periods of time.

Construction worker in a cherry picker-type lift working on the roof of a tollbooth at Anacortes terminal
The project was originally planned to take place during the off-peak season, but due to global supply chain issues, construction was delayed until now.

Knowing this work can be disruptive during the busy summer season, we’ve planned with our Anacortes terminal staff to manage reservation holders in line prior to the tollbooths during peak traffic periods.

We also worked with the contractor to limit the times when they can close lanes or more than one tollbooth.

If you get questions from customers about this project, you can direct them to the project page.

Showing respect by stating your preferred pronouns

With inclusion one of WSDOT’s three core goals and our focus on increasing diversity to rebuild crewing, showing respect is a key to success.

This includes ensuring transgender Washingtonians know they are welcome at WSF.

A simple way to do that is offering pronouns in email signature blocks and when making introductions in meetings. Stating your preferred pronouns signals how you want to be addressed and that you’ll respect those with pronouns different than your own.

What’s Up at WSDOT?

In 2023, we have made it a priority to host virtual all-staff meetings to provide important updates and share current events and strategies with employees.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, June 8, Secretary Roger Millar will host our third all-staff virtual meeting this year with several members of our leadership team to provide a recap of the legislative session, our signed budget, compensation changes as well as an update about our summer construction.

Employees can join by clicking here when the meeting starts. If you are interested in seeing the presentation but have a conflict, a recording of the meeting will be sent via email to all employees.

Last month, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, Deputy Secretary Amy Scarton hosted a virtual all-staff meeting with Dr. Kira Mauseth to talk about behavioral health and share tips to promote personal, team and workplace resilience. If you were not able to attend, a link to the presentation is posted on our website.

In February, Secretary Roger Millar shared with employees our State of Transportation presentation that highlights the many challenges and opportunities we have to design, build, operate and maintain a resilient multimodal transportation system for generations to come. A recording is available on Microsoft Stream. (You will be prompted to log in to watch the recording).

Additional all-staff meetings will be planned throughout the year to strengthen our connection to our agency’s goals and mission as well as our connection to each other.

Welcome Aboard!

Recent deck hires:

  • Genevieve Brown
  • Scott Carr
  • Steven Clarke
  • Liam Collins
  • Tyler Curry
  • Rory Deen
  • Matthew Frantz
  • John Gaska
  • Alex Glemzu
  • Vladislav Gross
  • Dianna Hand
  • Tasha Hart
  • Scot Hoffman
  • Paul Ivaska
  • Joseph Kirkman
  • Carter Lainhart
  • Caroline Maxstone
  • Braden Michaelsen
  • Lydia Nagel
  • Mateo Romero
  • Tyler Sayvetz
  • Keith Templer
  • Christian Urtasun
  • Eric Vestal
  • Randal Wilson
  • Josh Young

Recent engine hires:

  • Joshua Conomos
  • Johnathan Dewey
  • Thomas Ingalls
  • Jorge Linares
  • Cloie McLaughlin
  • Ryan Morgan
  • Sean Tillman

Recent terminal hires:

  • Yasmin Ashur
  • David Austin
  • Theodore Brosius
  • Daniel Hansen
  • Angel Holmes
  • Jordan Lewis
  • Julie McClure
  • Kathryn Oliver

Recent Eagle Harbor hire:

  • Michael Bry

Recent 2901 hires:

  • Claire Clancy
  • Kelsey Cronce
  • Gueorgui Dimitrov
  • Khanh Nguyen

We’re Hiring!

Current job openings at WSF:

From Our Social Media Feeds

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

Screenshot of tweet with aerial photo of ferry in Seattle's Elliott Bay with text "Hyak's last day in service was June 30, 2019 but the vessel's horn can be heard after each @SeattleKraken goal. #FlashbackFriday The Hyak was picture perfect in 1967! #FerryFriday Built in 1966, the Hyak was the first of @wsferries's four Super class ferries."

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

Enjoy paid time off. 

Our employees earn paid vacation and sick leave every month, as well as 12 paid holidays per year.

Work in a modern environment.

We offer telework options, an infant at work program, flexible work schedules and more.

Continue your learning journey.

Get tuition reimbursement for coursework or trainings related to your job or career ladder.