Washington State Ferries Employee News

Read the June 2022 edition of Ferry Tales, the Washington State Ferries employee newsletter.

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

Employees help reunite lost dog with owner

An unexpected walk-on passenger tried to board our 7:55 a.m. sailing out of Bainbridge on Friday, May 13.

Terminal Attendant Georgia Kalasountas says an unattended dog, wagging its tail, crossed the plank onto Wenatchee and made its way to the pickle fork. While she started searching for its owner, Deckhand Brooke Bennett scooped up the pup and onboard announcements were made about the lost pooch.

Finding no one to claim the hound, Georgia dropped it off at the tollbooth of Bainbridge terminal’s “resident dog lover,” Ticket Seller Nena Reichert. Meanwhile, Terminal Attendant Terri Maulin called PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap and a photo was posted to the Bainbridge Island Lost Pets Facebook page.

Ferry crewmember holding up a dog
Deckhand Brooke Bennett carries a pup that tried to board a morning sailing on Wenatchee.

After a few hours, someone recognized the lost pooch. Bainbridge Terminal Supervisor Maria Crisafi handed the dog over to its owner.

Great job to all involved!

Players wanted: 2022 WSDOT Soccer Tournament

The WSDOT Soccer Tournament is returning this year and our Ferries team is looking to fill its roster! All employees are welcome, as well as their direct family members older than 18 years of age. Past employees can also play.

The tournament will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at Valley Ridge Park (4644 S. 188th St.), Field #3 and #4, in SeaTac. Our Ferries team is one of seven participating. Others are Olympic Region, Mega Programs and Urban Mobility and Access, Bridge, Southwest Region and Headquarters, Corson and South Transit, and North.

Send our Ferries team manager Oiler Giovanni Hernandez an email at Giovanni.Hernandez@wsdot.wa.gov if you’re interested in being placed on the roster. The one-day event will consist of a minimum of three games, with a possible fourth game to decide the 2022 champ.

Help bring the title back to Washington State Ferries!

Headshot of Kim Monroe
Kim Monroe
Human Resources Deputy Director  

What’s New at HQ?

Remember what it was like trying to find your homeroom on the first day of school? Do you wish you would have had a friendly face to help guide you?

Fast forward to your first day at a new job. Were you lucky enough to have an ally that could show you the ropes?

Some of your colleagues recognized that need and worked with Director of Marine Operations Steve Nevey and WSDOT Continuous Improvement Manager Rebecca Orbeck to develop a plan. The result is a WSF New Employee Resource Group with a mission to help new employees feel connected by building relationships.

At new employee orientation, members of the group spend time with our new hires, sharing their experiences and answering questions. They’re also available to our new employees even after orientation if they need guidance or advice.

Founding members of the group include the following mates: Chloe Cox, Heather Kelleher, Noah Luff, Kira McElhose, Dakota Pedersen and Jeffrey Reeves. Special thanks to Rebecca Orbeck and Chief Mate Dan Fielder for supporting these employees through development.

“We started the group in order to empower our new WSF members in navigating their career paths,” according to its founding members. “We want to add another layer of support to make sure our new hires have access to all the tools necessary to become confident and successful at WSF.”

Director Nevey says these efforts support his strategic vision for Operations: “I want new and existing employees to feel engaged and part of a community. I have heard comments that folks often feel like they are left on their own trying to figure out anything from where they need to report for watch, to what they need to do to gain the credentials needed to advance their careers. Underrepresented groups may feel uncomfortable asking for advice or assistance on their own. This program provides a resource for any employee who feels like they need support in any area of their WSF life to reach out and speak to someone who has already walked their path. I am a great believer in fleet engagement and my goal of tackling the us vs them perception that exists at WSF. That is why I was eager to support this group of employees when they brought this initiative forward. I want to recognize this group for their initiative and willingness to not only bring forward an idea, but also for being willing to walk the walk and do the necessary work to implement that idea.”

An employee resource group (ERG) is a voluntary, employee-led group endorsed by WSF executive leadership. Their purpose is to develop ways to foster diversity and equity in the workplace. ERGs are supported by coworkers who share common interests, whether it’s gender, ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle or interests. They are a great way to build inclusion in the workplace. Want to know more about joining an ERG or how to start one? Reach out to your human resources representative or our Diversity Advisory Group Executive Sponsor John Vezina

Headshot of Nigel Neaves
Nigel Neaves

Employee Spotlight

It takes an army to operate our ferry system. And if it weren’t for Nigel Neaves and our small group of dispatchers, we wouldn’t have everyone we need to safely sail.

Nigel has the vital role of finding crew replacements for employees out on sick leave, leave of absences or vacation. He also works with vendors that handle the lube, fueling and oily bilge removal for our vessels.

Hired in 2016 as a terminal attendant at Southworth, Vashon and Point Defiance, Nigel transferred to his current role as a dispatcher in 2017.

“What makes this job so important is that dispatchers are making hundreds of phone calls per day to staff the vessels,” says Nigel. “There are unforeseen circumstances such as people getting sick or car breakdowns and we need people like me and my team to find people on a whim.”

“It’s a lot of behind the scenes work that the public doesn’t see that keeps the vessels sailing every day,” Nigel added. “I’m proud to be part of a small group of people that can handle what we do.”

Our crew dispatchers often juggle between making phone calls to engine, deck and licensed deck crews. Each has a different contract and language they must follow when dispatching. He says it can be a challenge keeping those in order and memorized.

With all the crewing challenges in 2020, our small dispatch team of 10 made 115,000 phone calls to fill both deck and engine room positions on our vessels. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our dispatch team, vessels sailed when they might have remained tied up, key positions were filled when they might have gone empty, and sailings operated that might have been canceled. The dispatch team went on to win the Teamwork Award in 2021.

“Best part of the job is signing off at night knowing in the morning all the vessels, to my knowledge, will be sailing and people will be able to get where they need to go,” says Nigel.

Employees in the fleet most likely have spoken with Nigel, including his sister, who works on our “Triangle” route. Even his four-year-old daughter witnessed all his hard work when she participated in and graduated from WSDOT’s Infant at Work Program in 2018.

Before joining WSF, Nigel worked as a general manager at Domino’s, running his own store in Poulsbo. This prior experience, such as working with different vendors, hiring, training employees, managing expenses, labor and dispatching delivery drivers gave him many of the tools to excel with our agency with no maritime experience. He then carried his logistics experience into dispatch.

Outside of work, Nigel is a coach for cross country and track at Klahowya Secondary School. He enjoys spending time with his family, trail running in the mountains with friends and woodworking.

“I do this job so I can provide for my family and take care of them,” he says.

View a video profile of Nigel.

Nautical Numbers

May 18 was the inaugural International Day for Women in Maritime. People who identify as female currently include:

  • 454 of our 1,856 employees (24.4%)
  • 156 of our 1,071 vessel crewmembers (15.4%)
  • 26 of our 364 licensed vessel employees (7.1%)

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

1,496,828 total riders

  • 755,363 drivers (with vehicle)
  • 283,640 passengers and walk-ons

11,899 trips completed

64,605 service miles

98.7% trip reliability

210 medical priority loads/medevacs

4 lifesaving events

27 training courses held for employees

40 whale sightings

Summer safety training event for Eagle Harbor employees

Our training department held a safety education event for Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility employees on May 20.

The facility’s Workforce Development Lead Victor Martinez and Health & Safety Supervisor Kelsey Cronce were the masterminds behind “101 Days of Summer,” which focused on sharing with staff the hazards that come as the weather heats up.

People under a tent with some standing at a table and other sitting
Tents were set up outside on the grounds of our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility for participants and attendees.
View from drone of several tents set up at Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility
View of the event from a drone.

The lunchtime event featured food and a chance to network. Trainings included surfing, skateboarding, sporting event, boating, hiking and electrical safety, along with tips on safe driving, gardening, heat illness, flight preparations and respiratory protection for home use.

Staff from our human resources department was also on hand to answer employee questions.

What Do You Think?

What was the name and class of the military vessel acquired when the state took over control of operations from Puget Sound Navigation Company (Black Ball Line) in 1951?

This month we celebrate our 71st birthday! On June 1, 1951, we began operations following the state’s purchase of the ferry system from Black Ball Line. The state acquired a military destroyer escort, USS Mitchell (DE-43), on June 1, 1951. The Puget Sound Navigation Company bought it for scrapping after World War II. USS Mitchell’s engines and drive motors were used to build Washington State Ferries’ first new vessel, the Evergreen State.

From Our Social Media Feeds

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

Screenshot of tweet featuring photos of an old ferry schedule from 1928





Save the Date!

Register now for our next all staff webinar is at 11 a.m. Monday, June 6.

What’s Up at WSDOT?

Celebrating Juneteenth

For the first time, WSDOT will observe Juneteenth as an official state holiday.

Typically celebrated on June 19, this year the holiday will be recognized on June 20, providing some staff a three-day weekend. (This change was made in the 2021 Legislature but didn’t take effect for state employees until this June due to the biennium calendar).

Juneteenth is the annual celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. It commemorates June 19, 1865, when people enslaved in Texas finally received official notification of their freedom by President Abraham Lincoln. The news traveled slowly, as it had been granted through the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier.

Juneteenth is a day to celebrate freedom, but also an opportunity to reflect, listen and learn about historical and current injustices and steps we can take towards an equitable and inclusive future. To learn what WSDOT is doing, review our Anti-Racism Policy (PDF 271KB) and visit our Diversity page on InsideDOT.

Welcome Aboard!

Recent deck hires:

  • Carley Beatty
  • Kendall Beatty
  • Alexander Bresnan
  • Antonio Campos
  • Adam Dahl
  • Sara Gnagey
  • Anna Jones
  • Bridget Long
  • Matthew Mobley
  • Dawn Nissen
  • Claire O'Leary
  • Zack O'Leary
  • Christopher Rawley
  • Juan Romo
  • Madison Shelby

Recent licensed engineer hires:

  • Nathan Miller
  • Eric Walters

Recent terminal hires:

  • John Andrews
  • Gabriel Baglioni
  • Kyle Cotey
  • Elizabeth Fisher
  • Andrae Gelito
  • Stephen Gurkin
  • Daryl Hammerschmidt
  • Patricia Hanzlik
  • Curtis Keat
  • Grayem Leigh
  • Kimberly O'Hare
  • John Oliver III
  • James Rasmussen
  • Traci Sharp

Recent Eagle Harbor hires:

  • Andrew Armanino
  • Jake Kramer
  • Brett Walker

Recent HQ hires:

  • David Echaniz
  • Rita Farcasiu

We’re Hiring!

In the News

Employees in the news in May:

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

8,683 animals crossed the Snoqualmie Pass East Project area

as recorded by WSDOT and partners in 2020 and 2021.

46% increase in Amtrak Cascades ridership to 251,000 passengers

in 2021 compared to 172,000 in 2020.

Nine wetland and stream mitigation sites across 32.7 acres added

to our monitoring program in 2021 to help offset climate change impacts.