Washington State Ferries Employee News

Read the April 2024 edition of Ferry Tales, the Washington State Ferries employee newsletter.

Watch the Jan. 11 winter all-staff meeting recording.

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

$194M more for WSF in state budget

During this year’s “short” 60-day legislative session, lawmakers addressed some of our immediate budget needs.

The 2024 supplemental transportation budget, which Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed into law, provides us with a total of $1.5 billion. That’s a $194 million increase (an additional $30 million for operating costs and $164 million more for capital expenses) from the 2023-25 enacted biennial budget.

Two ferry crewmembers in walking through the passenger cabin
The 2024 supplemental transportation budget includes $10 million to add an additional ordinary sailor and engine room oiler to each “watch” or shift to provide even better service and to be equipped for unexpected absences that then result in missed sailings.

This funding will be used to improve service reliability and increase workforce development, along with support for our electrification efforts, as well as vessel and terminal maintenance and preservation. Highlights include:

  • $2.1 million to expand our able-bodied sailor to mate program. The program reduces barriers to career advancement and encourages qualified, internal unlicensed deck crew (able-bodied sailors) to become licensed mates.
  • $988,000 to support our wiper to oiler promotion program.
  • $935,000 to add staff to our dispatch team.
  • $658,000 for increased staff hours at the two new terminals to assist with the ADA community.
  • $538,000 for additional human resources positions.
  • $330,000 to continue operating the San Juan Island crew shuttle.
  • $540,000 to grow our training scholarship program with the Marine Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies. The program helps build a sustainable, diverse workforce pipeline by making maritime education and licenses available to more people.
  • $73 million to continue work to electrify our ferries.
  • $4 million to supplement our Seattle/Bremerton route with additional Kitsap Transit passenger-only ferry service so travelers have more options while the route remains on one-boat service.
  • $3.2 million to add King County Water Taxi service between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle to supplement our Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route, which remains on a two-boat schedule instead of three.
Headshot of a person
Steve Nevey
Assistant Secretary

What’s New at HQ?

How does what I am doing make Washington State Ferries successful today?

I’ve heard Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar say several times recently, “Ferries are no longer in crisis; we were in crisis two years ago, and now we are in recovery.”

I felt it important to share that sentiment with all of you. I sense a real tension at WSF, where many of us are still scrambling to get back to 2019.

The pandemic was, of course, an extremely traumatic event and completely changed life as we knew it. That said, it’s important to acknowledge that we aren’t going back to 2019, and it’s okay to stop scrambling to try to get back to that old sense of normal.

While we will continue to use 2019 metrics to benchmark our recovery from a data perspective, we need to align ourselves around a strategy to move forward in the post-pandemic reality that we now have the opportunity to create.

We must collectively understand and embrace the “big picture” that guides our actions and decisions.

I have already shared the beginning of that strategic direction in several all-staff messages. You will hear more about this strategic direction and alignment over the coming weeks and months.

For now, it can be as simple as every employee asking themselves, “How does what I am doing make Washington State Ferries successful today?”

If the answer is, “It doesn’t,” then you probably aren’t doing something that is in line with the big picture.

If each of us takes on this introspective approach while reflecting on our core values, it will ensure we are moving forward together in alignment.

Headshot of a person
Chris Draper

Employee Spotlight

When a ferry engine needs to be fixed, Chris Draper is one of the first calls made.

Chris is a machinist at Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility. He rebuilds Detroit Series-60 engines and operates the equipment that repairs parts (or makes new ones) on ferries.

Chris also runs the fixed-cab boom crane at Eagle Harbor and at ferry terminals.

“It’s great to get recognition from the public and employees for the work that I do,” said Chris. “Rebuilding something and seeing that it runs correctly is a big accomplishment for me.”

Chris worked as an auto mechanic before becoming an apprentice machinist with the U.S. Navy. He eventually made his way to WSF in 2019.

“It takes a lot of time, training, focus, dedication and pride in what you do,” he said.

Outside of work, Chris enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids, taking them to concerts and getting his kids to sporting activities.

Between inside and outside operations, crane and truck driving, and serving as the machine shop’s union representative, Chris has a boatload of responsibilities.

“This job is a wide range of what I like to do,” he said. “There’s always something new every day.”  

View a video profile of Chris.

Tune in to Spring All-Staff Meeting Thursday, April 18

Do you have questions about what’s new at WSF? Bring them to the Spring All-Staff Meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, April 18!

Click this link to join live and submit your question or send them ahead of time by emailing WSF Employee Communications.

We’ll start with a brief presentation that will include a message from new Assistant Secretary Steve Nevey, budget highlights, an update from the Dispatch Team and the 2024 WSF Assistant Secretary Award nominees and WINNER!

If you’re not able to join live, a recording of the meeting will be sent to all staff the next day and posted at the top of our Ferry Tales webpage.

All-women team at Mukilteo terminal

Four people posing for a photo on an outdoor patio at a ferry terminal
Three people standing outside three separate toll booths at Mukilteo terminal
We had an all-female crew at our Mukilteo terminal on April 7 of Renee Balloun, Pamela Cox-Pedersen, Relief Supervisor Faith Jackson, and Sheri Pfeifer (top), along with Ticket Sellers Diane Morris, Mary Nygard and Audrey Amilowski.

What’s Up at WSDOT?

On April 2, WSDOT honored the lives of transportation workers killed or injured on the job at its annual Worker Memorial in Olympia.

The ceremony included comments from frontline workers, agency leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee about the dangers crews face on the job and efforts to improve work zone safety statewide.

At the ceremony, WSDOT Memorial Foundation president and our former assistant secretary, Patty Rubstello, read the names of our agency’s 61 workers killed on the job since 1950 including Steven L. Brown from Washington State Ferries who died on Feb. 18, 1998.

Two people posing for a photo while standing in front of a work truck
Bosun Derrick Fant and Ordinary Sailor Nanette Hearns represented our division at the ceremony as members of the Honor Guard.

During this year’s ceremony, WSDOT added Rodney C. Wheeler to the list. Mr. Wheeler was a bridge tender on the SR 99 bridge in Seattle and was discovered deceased on June 30, 2023. He is survived by his fiancé, their children, his parents and extended family.

The ceremony also featured the personal story of Highway Maintenance Worker Bethany Blankenship, as well as the other members of her crew, who were struck by a suspected drunk driver on Interstate 5 near Vancouver on Jan. 21, 2024. All six crew members were sent to the hospital following the crash. The whole crew was able to attend the Worker Memorial and spoke with Gov. Inslee before the ceremony.

We host a month-long work zone safety campaign every April, both to remind the public of the need to keep crews safe and to acknowledge our co-workers who have been injured or killed on the job. Several work zone awareness events are being planned in April.

Please consider wearing orange on April 17 to show your commitment to work zone safety as part of National Go Orange Day. Participants can share their Go Orange Day selfies (individual or group shots) by emailing them, along with the names and titles of everyone pictured, to Intranet@WSDOT.WA.GOV by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17.

We will also participate in a national moment of silence at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 19, to remember our co-workers killed on the job.

Nautical Numbers

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

1,501,027 total riders

  • 744,731 drivers (with vehicle)
  • 756,296 passengers and walk-ons

12,023 trips completed

64,451 service miles

99.0% trip reliability (based on scheduled trips)

228 medical priority loads/medevacs

2 lifesaving events

36 whale sightings (34 of them orcas)

From Our Social Media Feeds

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

Screenshot of March 11 X post with photo of ferry recue boat going to a vessel in distress


Welcome Aboard!

Recent deck hires:

  • Vicente Aguilera
  • Ivanhoe Bandoy
  • Bryan Barr
  • Keith Bell
  • Austin Burgess
  • Matthew Cahoon
  • David Carlton
  • Christopher Counley
  • Samuel Day
  • Randy Enquist
  • Even Erickson
  • Gavin Figgins
  • James Harding
  • Nathan Harvey
  • Spencer Hastings
  • Kelsey Hopkins
  • Alec Jangard
  • Ash Lang
  • Brant Leslie
  • Benjamin Moosmiller
  • Travis Noble
  • Michael Nolan
  • Kenneth Peterson
  • Rafael Roman
  • Zach Unrein
  • Aidan Wahl
  • Collin Warrington

Recent engine hires:

  • Jaylene Gould
  • Sean Morgan
  • Christopher Moses
  • Jon Nostdal

Recent Eagle Harbor hires:

  • Russell Brunelle
  • Seamus Courtney
  • Christopher Viciana
  • Philip Victor

Recent HQ hires:

  • Brian Amos
  • Preetkanwal Bains
  • Mikaela Cesario
  • David Rogers
  • Brian Ublacker

We’re Hiring!

Current job openings at WSF:

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

Slow down – lives are on the line. 

In 2023, speeding continued to be a top reason for work zone crashes.

Even one life lost is too many.

Fatal work zone crashes doubled in 2023 - Washington had 10 fatal work zone crashes on state roads.

It's in EVERYONE’S best interest.

95% of people hurt in work zones are drivers, their passengers or passing pedestrians, not just our road crews.