Alaska couple forges separate careers under Saltchuk umbrella

Alaska couple forges separate careers under Saltchuk umbrella

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on June 11, 2018

Delta Western Safety Director Leon Dwiggins and Carlile Senior Project Manager Christen Van Treeck are always ready for the next adventure.

By Hilary Reeves

Leon Dwiggins and Christen Van Treeck could have been high school sweethearts.

Delta Western Safety Director Leon Dwiggins and Carlile Senior Project Manager Christen Van Treeck are always ready for the next adventure

“We actually met right out of high school,” Dwiggins explained, “and I knew she was the one. We dated for about eight years before we got married. We’ve been together 24 years, married for almost 16.”

Both Dwiggins, Safety Director at Delta Western/NorthStar Energy, and Van Treeck, Senior Project Manager at Carlile Transportation, attended Dimond High School in Anchorage after moving to Alaska as children. Dwiggins was born in San Diego, but was quickly whisked back to his parents’ home state. Van Treeck was born in South Dakota, but spent much of her early childhood in Missouri.

“We lived in Missouri until 1985 when my dad accepted a job in Alaska running Matanuska Maid Dairy – one of Carlile’s first customers,” said Van Treeck. “When people ask me about my childhood, I always tell them that I came from the ultimate “Beaver Cleaver” family: mom, dad, brother, and cat. My parents have been married for 46 years, and my dad still calls my mom his ‘bride.’”

Prior to graduating high school, Van Treeck began searching for a summer job.

“My brother was already working at Carlile, so I mailed my resume to Harry McDonald. I started at Carlile a week before my high school graduation, and I worked full-time while putting myself through college at the University of Alaska Anchorage.”

Van Treeck eventually graduated with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Global Logistics Management. But growing up, her dream was to own a Chevrolet dealership.

Carlile Senior Project Manager Christen Van Treeck

“I’ve always loved cars from a young age,” she said. “My friends in high school always laughed at me because my favorite pastime was washing and waxing my car.”

Meanwhile, sports were Dwiggins passion growing up. He held state records in track and football.

“I learned at a young age that I needed to work hard to get the things I wanted out of life,” he said.

Dwiggins spent much of his childhood outdoors, “snow-machining,” teaching children to ski as a high school ski instructor, and fishing at his grandparents’ cabin in Kenai. He grew up wanting to be a teacher and a coach.

“I have three adopted younger brothers, so a lot of my teenage years were spent taking care of them while my parents worked.”

“Safety doesn’t have a ‘typical’ day”

Delta Western Safety Director Leon Dwiggins

After high school, Dwiggins worked road construction in the summer and at VECO (now Jacobs) in the winter. He said his early years working as a laborer led to a passion for safety.

“I personally experienced some very unsafe situations at other companies I’d worked for, and I decided that if I could be in a safety role, I could be proactive and prevent coworkers from having injuries or incidents,” he explained.

One of his greatest challenges, he said, is the fact that if someone gets hurt on the job in a remote location, he can’t always be there.

“Safety doesn’t have a ‘typical’ day,” he said. “We work through daily challenges on a variety of different issues ranging from hazard recognition, near misses, employee concerns and suggestions, to special projects. Dealing with Alaska’s increment weather conditions is always a challenge.”

Van Treeck has spent the past 23 years in the transportation industry.

“When I started working at Carlile just before I graduated high school, we were a small office building on Ship Avenue, and I was a file clerk.”

She transitioned to billing clerk, then billing supervisor while in college. After graduation, she said she wasn’t sure what she was going to do with her degree.

“As luck should have it, about six months after I graduated, Carlile was awarded an all-encompassing transportation and logistics contract that required a single point of contact to manage the customers’ day-to-day logistical needs; at that time, I was promoted to Senior Logistics Manager. That role, and the Alaska Logistics department, gradually grew over time.”

Van Treeck’s greatest challenge in her new role was earning the respect of the company’s Prudhoe Bay customers.

“I remember the first time I had to call a field manager and report that we couldn’t find a valve,” she said. “I told the customer they’d have to file a claim and reorder – only to be angrily told that the specialized valve had a 12 week lead time, and that they had to shut down in two weeks so, ‘figure it out!’ We found the valve and delivered it just in time, but that first year for me was a tough one. I learned a lot, and as I gained the respect of those customers, the barriers came down and they knew they could count on me to do what I said I was going to do.”

In her current role, Van Treeck is working on a project that allows the company’s dispatchers to send load offers to drivers digitally.

“This allows our drivers to have their dispatches at their fingertips, reducing phone interaction an offering real-time information flow.”

Fostering strong relationships

Working for companies under the same corporate umbrella, Dwiggins and Van Treeck often cross paths – most often at industry events, according to Van Treeck.

“Anytime Leon has the opportunity to refer someone to Carlile, he does, and tells them to ‘call Christen Van Treeck – she’ll take care of you.’ He’s a pretty good unpaid salesman for Carlile,” she laughed.

And for Delta Western.

“Delta Western is one of the premier fuel and lubrication companies in Alaska,” he said. “We work long hours in very adverse conditions. We work safely in remote, isolated locations, and we have a culture built around safety, supported and backed up by the fact that we are one of Saltchuk’s safest performers according to safety statistics. This accomplishment by our team brings me much pride, and that’s what I’d like the public to know about our company.”

“Live life to the fullest”

Escaping the Alaska winters in their favorite travel destination, Hawaii

In terms of his personal journey, Dwiggins said he wishes he would’ve learned sooner to channel his passion.

“I give 110 percent to everything I do,” he explained, “whether it’s personal or professional. I’ve had to learn how to channel those passions so I don’t come off as ‘in your face’ or ‘aggressive.’ It’s been a process, but over the years I’ve been able to communicate better by changing my delivery, and listening more thoroughly. I’m much more open and understanding of the needs of others.”

Van Treeck is most proud of the fact that she’s always stood by her personal and professional morals and ethics.

“Early on in my career, I learned quickly that being open and honest is key when building and sustaining relationships with customers,” she said. “Delivering bad news isn’t easy, but if you’re honest with your customers and provide solutions when problems arise, that’s paramount in fostering strong relationships.”

Like Van Treeck at Carlile, Dwiggins hopes to continue his career at Delta Western.

“I take a lot of pride in and am passionate about what I do, and I want to become the Vice President of Safety for Delta Western/NorthStar Energy.”

The couple enjoys traveling – their favorite vacation spot is Hawaii – and working at home in Anchorage (Dwiggins, on the “greenest yard in the neighborhood,” and Van Treeck, washing and waxing cars in the garage), and hours north of Anchorage at their cabin, accessible only by snowmachine in the winter and four-wheeler in the summer.

“We built the cabin from the ground up with the help of some great friends,” she said. “It’s been a labor of love and a lot of hard work; when you don’t have road access, everything becomes a logistical challenge. The cabin offers us a place to go and disconnect, and just get back to the basics. It’s a pretty humbling experience to live and work in such a beautiful place. I always say people pay thousands of dollars to come see the things that are just in our back yard, and that’s pretty neat.”

“Words that I live by: live life to the fullest, because you may not be here tomorrow,” Dwiggins concluded.

New leadership to energize Delta Western and Hawaii Petroleum companies for Saltchuk

This article was originally published on the Saltchuk website on February 22, 2018.

Seattle, Wash. – On January 2, 2018, Bert Valdman became the President & CEO of North Star Petroleum­, Saltchuk’s energy distribution line of business.

Valdman brings a wealth of experience in the energy sector to the Saltchuk family of companies, most recently serving as the President & CEO of Optimum Energy, the leading provider of data-driven cooling and heating optimization solutions for enterprise facilities. Prior to joining Optimum Energy he was the Chief Strategy Officer of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison, one of the largest electric utilities in the country. Prior to Edison, he was the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Puget Sound Energy where he was responsible for regulated electric and natural gas distribution operations, as well as the Customer Service, Information Technology, and Community Affairs functions. He also served as Puget Energy’s Chief Financial Officer from 2003 through 2007.

Already very familiar with the Saltchuk family of companies, Valdman served on the Saltchuk Board of Directors since April 2015.

“We are thrilled we were successful in our efforts to move Bert from being a member of the Board to a senior leader within the Saltchuk family of companies,” said Tim Engle, President of Saltchuk. “We are continually impressed by his input and look forward to working with him to grow this sector of our companies.”

North Star Petroleum oversees leading petroleum and lubricant distribution companies Delta Western Petroleum in Alaska and Hawaii Petroleum – Ohana Fuels, Minit Stop and HFN – in Hawaii. Valdman is based in the company’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

“Our companies provide critical services to the communities that our more than 500 employees live and work in. I’m looking forward to spending time across our operations and working with our teams to continue to deepen and develop our businesses in Hawaii, Alaska and the Pacific Northwest,” said Valdman.

Valdman earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Northwestern University, as well as masters and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. He serves on the board of Lakeside School and has served as a member of the board of trustees for Overlake Hospital, Puget Sound Blood Center and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

Living healthy in Hawaii

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on December 31, 2017

Hawaii Petroleum’s Laura Alfonso has a passion for helping her fellow Hawaiians lead healthier lives.

By Hilary Reeves

Laura Alfonso knew from a young age that she wanted to help people – and she didn’t waste any time getting started.

“Shortly before graduating from high school, I had to decide whether to go to college or get a job,” she explained. “I decided to go straight to work and started interviewing for jobs during my last few months of high school. One of my interviewers asked when I could start. I was graduating on June 6, so I said ‘I can start June 7,’ and I was hired on the spot working for a large, local bank in downtown Honolulu.”

Born and raised in Honolulu, Alfonso’s now a Senior Account Manager at Hawaii Petroleum on Maui. Her parents met and married when her father was stationed on Oahu. The marriage was short-lived, ending before she was born. Her grandparents, first generation immigrants from Japan, raised Alfonso.

“My grandmother was a ‘picture bride,” she said. “My grandfather came to Hawaii at age 16. As was custom at the time, my grandparent’s marriage was arranged by both families. My grandparents only had a picture of each other before my grandmother was sent from Japan to Hawaii to marry in 1932. They were happily married for 58 years.”

Alfonso’s grandparents had seven children. Although her grandmother couldn’t read, write or speak English, she ran a successful delicatessen on Oahu where Alfonso began helping when she was seven years old. Through the mentoring of her grandmother Alfonso learned the importance of servitude, a custom of her grandmother’s samurai heritage.

“We were taught in our family home that the life of a samurai is the life of a servant, and it was ingrained in us early on to help and serve anyone we could.”

Alfonso began her career as a file clerk at a local bank, and married in 1979. She married her high school sweetheart; the couple now has two daughters and six grandchildren.

Alfonso’s husband was in the U.S. Army, and the couple moved to Germany with their two young daughters in 1984.

“We came from Hawaii, and we learned really quickly what cold was,” she laughed. “It was the coldest winter in Germany in more than a decade. Temperatures dropped to 30 (degrees) below (zero). I developed a wonderful friendship with our landlady there in Germany, and she taught me some German and I taught her some English. We were well loved there in Germany.”

After Alfonso moved to Germany, she was hired at American Express on post.

“I’d always wanted to be a loan officer, and after meeting with the branch manager, he created a loan department for me to work in. I loved my job, and helping the soldiers and community there.”

One of the most rewarding times of Alfonso’s career came every year during her Christmases overseas.

“I remember in particular I processed as many as 26 loan applications in one day to send soldiers back home for Christmas,” she said. “My manager thought I was crazy, but it was worth everything to see the soldiers get home to their ‘ohana’ [family].”

The family moved back to Hawaii in 1988, this time to Maui.

“Maui was always intriguing to me,” said Alfonso. “There’s something magical about this island. I promised myself that I would live there someday, and here I am.”
Alfonso again landed a job in loan servicing, this time for GE Capital. When the company closed its Hawaii operation, she went in heavy equipment sales.

“I made a lot of friends in the construction industry. When the opportunity came for me to build our home, I had so much help and support from a lot of my contacts and friends,” she laughed. “The thing about Hawaii is we have strong relationships with people.”

Alfonso was hired at Hawaii Petroleum in 2010.

“Once again, I get to focus all my customer service and sales experience in a new way to help the people and businesses of Maui,” she said.
Joining Hawaii Petroleum has also allowed Alfonso to continue helping others outside of the office as well.

“I’m a Type 1 Diabetic,” she said. “Doctors – they diagnose and prescribe medication, but it was up to me to learn to become my own doctor, in a sense. I researched what works and doesn’t work for me. I started to learn about the benefits of healthful living.”
Alfonso learned of a community-based health program and wanted to learn more about the lifestyle.

“I started testing all the lifestyle principles (of the program) on myself and made some simple changes, and it made a big impact on my disease,” she said. “I saw a big improvement.”

This motivated her to travel to New Mexico to get her certification to conduct the community health program, so she could begin helping others. She wasted no time, and began running the program on Maui in 2008.

“We built up a team, and organized to get them trained and certified to move forward in helping our community with this amazing health program,” she said. “We have helped hundreds of people get off medications, lose weight, eat better, and live longer and happier lives. It’s a powerful way to help and serve other people in need.”

Out of the 700 certified community health chapters across the country, Alfonso and her team’s hard work resulting in Maui being ranked third in results.

“The program’s founder flew to Maui to see the incredible results we were having here,” she said.

In addition to the program, Alfonso stresses the importance of a sustained lifestyle change.

“We keep participants connected through cooking classes, outdoor activities, and other community-building activities,” she said.

Recently, she and the eldest of her six grandchildren started a healthy, plant-based meal prep-delivery service.

“I plan the menu and prep while my granddaughter takes the orders and manages the business,” she explained. “Everything is fresh and healthy. It’s geared toward busy working people who are looking for healthy meals, but are too busy to cook.”

Alfonso said she looks forward to a future full of friends, family, new recipes, and sharing her food with others.

Courageous convenience

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on June 20, 2016

Kim Robello in front of Lahaina Minit Stop location on Maui

Minit Stop marketing manager Kim Robello continues to chart new waters

By Hilary Reeves

Kim Robello graduated from high school on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1978. He immediately went to work as the graveyard cashier for a local 7-Eleven, and never looked back.

“I’ve been in the convenience-store business all of my working life.”

Robello was the only one of four children to be born on the mainland. His father, a career U.S. Marine, moved back and forth, and just so happened to be stationed in Barstow, Calif. when Robello was born. The family moved back to Hawaii in 1968.

“My mother was a very proud, but generous and gracious Hawaiian,” he said. “She taught elementary school, and specialized in teaching kids who were rough, on the edge, who didn’t want to be in school. My father always said my mother made no money teaching because she spent so much of what she earned on her students, who didn’t have much. She made sure we studied hard, showed compassion and empathy toward others, and always lived our lives with Aloha.”

Robello said he learned from his mother an empathetic approach – something he employs to this day when confronting adversity.

“When dealing with others, you have to always look at a given situation with empathy for that person’s position and try very hard to work out a win-win situation,” he explained. “Sometimes circumstances don’t allow this, but if I try hard to understand the other person’s issues and challenges, they know I had their best interests in mind and that I dealt with them honestly and fairly.”

Robello’s father went to war in Korea, in addition to three tours in Vietnam.

“If you asked him what he did during those tours, he would only say that he was glad to be home knowing his family and fellow Americans were safe.”

After landing the 7-Eleven cashier job when he was 18, Robello was soon promoted to Store Manager. He “took a beating” during his first management stint and decided to step back to learn more about the industry. After a year as an assistant manager, he was again promoted to a store manager position at 7-Eleven when he was 19. Then a training manager. After 10 years with the company, he left to join Pacific Resources, now known as Tesoro, where he worked as a supervisor for just 10 days before he was awarded the position of Convenience Store Coordinator. He later accepted the position of Operations/Marketing Manager, and took over marketing as his full-time position after the company acquired an additional 33 stores.

“I always wanted to live on a neighbor island, and when given the chance by my old boss from Tesoro, along with Jim and Kimo Haynes (former owners of Minit Stop), I jumped at the chance to work for Minit Stop on beautiful Maui as the Marketing Manager. I’ve been at my current position for 16 years. When Saltchuk purchased Minit Stop, I was a little hesitant, as working for the Haynes family was wonderful, but the change to Saltchuk turned out to be equally wonderful, albeit a bigger family operation.”

Minit Stop was awarded top honors amongst all of Hawai`i’s advertising and designs for their new logo and carry-out food boxes.

Minit Stop is a popular chain of convenience stores known throughout the islands for their fried chicken and Aloha – Robello clearly serves as inspiration for the latter. He said the best thing about his job is the challenge of keeping the company relevant in the small marketplace.

“We’re a small, but feisty group,” he said. “When the bigger companies try to match up with us, they know we’re all-in and ready to rumble. My biggest challenge is not to miss opportunities when they present themselves, simply because I’m not watching. I don’t want to fail my team. But the Minit Stop team sees what I can’t, and together we don’t miss much.”

Robello regrets not attending college after high school, but believes that everything happens for a reason.

“My school counselors thought college would be wasted on me, and I believed them,” he said. “I wish hadn’t taken their advice and had gone to college, if not for the experience than for the education and leg-up it would have provided me. That said, the ‘school of hard knocks’ worked for me, though I met and received help from a lot of good folks. I’m proud to have made my parents proud, and blessed that my children have done the same for me.”

Robello is close to his brother, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and Federal fireman; his sister, a loan officer; and another sister, the “free spirit.” He and his wife of 37 years are the proud parents of a son who works as a hospice care management nurse, and a daughter, the mother of Robello’s three grandchildren.

Robello and his wife at a Minit Stop holiday gathering last year

“I also have five Chihuahuas, who are a pain,” he laughed. “Really, my family is my hobby, along with my reason for living. By family, I mean my immediate family in addition to all the people I’ve met in my life, who are my ‘Hanai’ family. If they’re happy, I’m happy.”

Robello’s latest claim to fame was starring as the voice of the Saltchuk Hawaii video. He said he hopes to finish his career at Minit Stop.

“I hope to continue to make Minit Stop a profitable entity, and retire from the company with good memories, knowing I have it 110 percent,” he added. “Minit Stop was built on family values, and continues to be successful because Saltchuk operates with the same train of thought. Hawaii folks in general are welcoming, compassionate, and generally want you to be part of the Hawaiian Ohana. You can’t just say ‘Aloha,’ you have to live it.

“I’ve been very blessed in my life,” he concluded. “I have a wonderful immediate and Hanai family; I live in peace and tranquility in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have my health, and I’m gainfully employed at a very good company. If other folks had half the blessings I have, they would have a lot.”

Robello as the “Voice of Saltchuk Hawaii”!

Minitstop district manager lives for aloha, ohana

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on January 15, 2018

Thomas Kaohimaunu: ‘We are truly a family.’

By Hilary Reeves

Thomas Kaohimaunu was born on the island of Oahu, moving to Waimea on the island of Hawaii when he was two.

“Growing up in Waimea was challenging, yet rewarding,” he said. “We were a small, close-knit community and family of eight siblings. My mom worked three jobs to support and provide for us in a loving environment. A lot of time was spent with neighborhood children and their families – everyone looked out for each other.”

Kaohimaunu’s mother didn’t drive, so the family walked to church, the grocery store, sporting and social events – even to the Laundromat.

“When we did ride in a car, it was a treat,” he said. “Times have sure changed here in Waimea. There’s now three stoplights, numerous schools, and yes, even a Minitstop.”

Kaohimaunu dreamed of being the Governor of Hawaii, but got his start delivering newspapers at the age of seven. At 10, he was working on several Macadamia but farms, harvesting nuts. At 13, he began working at a grocery store, and at 15 he worked at a flower farm. At 18, he was ready to work in tourism.

“I started at a resort at the age of 18 and worked there for the next 17 years, with a small floral design business on the side,” he said. “I was actually the lead cook at a restaurant before coming to Minit Stop.”

Recently promoted to District Manager West (Island of Hawaii), Kaohimaunu said he most loves the hardworking, dedicated staff at his stores, doing what they do best, day in and day out, the loyal customers who have become a part of their Minit Stop ohana (family), and a his supportive management team.

“My greatest challenge would probably be staffing our stores,” he said. “It’s hard to hire and keep great employees who share our vision and values, not only with our customers, but with each other.”

A typical day for Kaohimaunu begins at 5 a.m. He checks e-mails, sits with his children, and mentally plans his day.

“I’ll do store visits, and usually end my day at my home store in Kohanaiki,” he said. “As my day winds down, I’ll head home around 6 p.m. Then, it’s family time, cooking dinner and spending time with my five children, four dogs, and cat. They are my stress relievers!”

Kaohimaunu hopes people know by now the variety of food prepared in-store daily, and the love with which it’s prepared.

“It’s all about the great values and deals we offer in our stores,” he said, “as well as our top-notch fuel, customer service, and clean, safe environment. We try to embody the truest spirit of aloha and ohana, which sets us apart from the rest.”

If Kaohimaunu could change a single thing about his journey, he said he would have taken more computer classes in high school.

“Thanks to our awesome staff, I am learning,” he laughed. “My plan for the future is to continue to grow and do what I love best – my job! I am so proud of all the staff within our organization from the bottom on up. I started at the bottom, too, and so I know what it takes for them to live the values of Minit Stop day after day through hard work and dedication. We truly are a family.”

Bridging the gap: Hawaii Petroleum, industry straddle past and future sources of energy

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on March 20, 2018.

Steve Wetter, Vice President of Wholesale Operations at Hawaii Petroleum

“We know that if we don’t change with the market, we’re not going survive.”

By Hilary Reeves

Steve Wetter moved from Camden, New Jersey to Maui in 1970. His father, a chemical engineer turned attorney who worked for Arco in Philadelphia, had flown to Honolulu for a work conference the previous year and decided to tour an outer island before returning home to the East Coast. From there, Wetter said, began a family adventure for the ages.

“He came back and immediately put the house on the market and moved us all out to the island,” said Wetter, who was five years old and accompanied by his parents and four brothers. “At the time, he was probably considered a bit crazy, because it wasn’t necessarily a good career move. It was a pretty bold move that he made.”

Wetter and his four brothers, all close in age, adapted quickly, and spent their formative years windsurfing and indulging in all the island has to offer. His father joined an island law firm specializing in contract law, and eventually became a real estate broker. When Wetter was 14 years old – nine years after the move – his father died.

“Things really changed,” he said. “My mom went back to work as a lab tech. My brothers and I all worked from an early age, because we attended a private high school and we wanted to continue there, so we worked to put ourselves through.”

After stints mowing lawns and working a paper route, Wetter landed a job in high school that would change his life forever as a Service Station Attendant at a ’76 dealer in Kihei. After graduation, he enrolled in the University of Hawaii’s Business Management program and began work for another ’76 dealer in Honolulu.

“When I graduated in 1991, the owner of the service station I worked for through high school and during the summers during college wanted to move to North Carolina, but continue to own the station. I became a dealer for him and ran the station for three years.”

When that station was eventually sold, Wetter moved to Honolulu and got a job in sales for Pacific Petroleum.

“At that time, we had taken over a warehouse and distributorship on Maui, but it was small. I contracted Hawaii Petroleum to distribute the lubricants, and they ended up offering me a job.”

Wetter joined Hawaii Petroleum in 1998, and now works as the company’s Vice President of Wholesale Operations. He counts himself among the few who remember the islands’ first self-service station.

“I sometimes come across people in the industry who asked me how long I’ve been involved, and they’re shocked when I say ‘38 years.’ It’s funny, because I’m still relatively young. When I came to work for Hawaii Petroleum, my boss didn’t know that I knew everyone as well as I did. Some of the guys were employees of the ’76 jobber [wholesale distributors] when I was working in high school. They delivered the fuel to us, so I got to know all the drivers.”

Along with Wetter, the company has grown, not only organizationally, but also via new sites, including two new convenience store locations on the Big Island. There are 35 employees on Maui and the Big Island in wholesale distribution.

“We’re a pretty small crew,” said Wetter, “and we’re responsible for distributing all the fuel. We have accounts ranging from government to commercial to retail service stations and, of course, our own stations.”

The industry, he said, is competitive, but shrinking – as is the number of wholesale distributors – or “jobbers.”

“Hawaii is a big alternative-energy state,” Wetter explained. “We harness solar power, wind power – even the waves. The Legislature would like to see everyone off fossil fuels for both power and transportation. Electric cars, bio fuel…that will change our industry here in the long run.”

The change is welcome, he said, but the trick is bridging the gap between what is the status quo now, and what will come in the future.

“Change is difficult,” said Wetter. “We know that if we don’t change with the market, we’re not going survive. I put solar panels on my house, and we have them here at the office. It’s not something we intent to ignore. The first step in bridging the gap. No one wants to make investments here in refineries if they’re going to be obsolete within a few decades. And if that happens, what’s going to happen to people who can’t afford electric cars? Gas may be cheap, but what if they can’t get to it? We’re hoping to be among the problem-solvers who figure out how to phase in alternative energy while still maintaining affordable petroleum products. The key is phasing it in, and allowing time for technology to catch up.”

Wetter sits on the board of the Hawaii Petroleum Marketers Association, a board composed of industry leaders and representatives of the state. He also sits on the board of the Western Petroleum Marketers Association, a collaborative effort of seven western states.

“Our biggest challenge is how to transition during the next 20 years to alternative energy,” he said. “It’s a tricky, but exciting prospect.”

Wetter’s daughter attends the University of Hawaii on Maui; his wife is the concierge of the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea. An active Rotarian, he counts education as an essential building block of success.

“We’ve done many wonderful projects in the community,” said Wetter, who served on the board of the Rotary Club of Kahului for 10 years.

With the help of a grant, Wetter and his fellow Rotarians recently completed a complete re-painting of the Maui MEO Head Start Preschool, a preschool created as part of an area homeless shelter. Wetter also serves on the club’s scholarship board.

“I’m a big supporter of education, having put myself through college,” he said. “I’m an especially big supporter of those who are under-privileged and unable to pay for it. I get very excited by those who are the first in their family to be able to go. I think if I had been a little more driven, I couldn’t have expanded past my bachelor’s degree.”

To that end, Wetter enrolled last summer in a six-week leadership course at Stanford University in California.

“I had a long weekend in the middle of it, and my daughter flew over and stayed in the dorm with me – she was blown away by the campus and the level of education offered there.”

Wetter acknowledges he’s come a long way since his days of windsurfing.

“A lot of people probably don’t know that while two of my brothers were professional windsurfers, my mom was the last family member doing it,” he laughed. “Our family was even featured in an ‘80s television ad for the Hawaiian Moving Company. Life’s worked out differently than I envisioned, but better than I could have imagined when I first stepped off the plane as a five-year-old boy from New Jersey.”

Delta Western Payroll Specialist works to connect communities

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on January 29, 2019.

Michaela Naidoo in Seattle.

Michaela Naidoo on family, photography and bringing people together.

By Hilary Reeves

When Michaela Naidoo is out on the streets of Seattle and sees people taking pictures of each other in front of city landmarks and scenic vistas, she stops.

“I say, ‘Let me take the picture – you go get in it,’” she explained. “I absolutely love being able to do that for people. There’s a photographer that I follow whose mantra is ‘exist in photos.’ Everyone should exist in their photos. No one should be left out.”
Naidoo, born in Seattle and raised in the city’s Magnolia neighborhood, is a Payroll Specialist for Delta Western, a company that provides fuel to Alaska. Before her official hire, she spent her summers as a sort of intern.

“My mom worked for Delta Western, and I would go in with her during the summers to file and make copies and whatever else they could give a kid to do,” she said. “After I graduated from high school in 2002, I was managing a restaurant – Ivar’s Seafood,” she said. “My mom was the IT Director at Delta Western and she told me the company was hiring an Administrative Assistant.”

Naidoo applied, and was hired.

“I’d never officially worked in an office environment before,” she said, “but by that point, I’d been there almost every summer working and it felt very natural. I already knew everyone. About a year into my time here, I was able to start working with a lot of different departments through various projects. I’ve been here for 13 years and I still enjoy learning about the different facets of the company.”

Bridging the geographical gap

Naidoo’s strong interest in business led her to pursue an associate’s degree while working full time at her job at Delta Western. She hopes to continue her education in the coming year and entrench more firmly into the world of Human Resources.

Naidoo’s work often takes her to Anchorage, where she makes time to capture the surrounding dramatic landscape. Photo: Michaela Naidoo.

“I’ve always had a really strong interest in people and entrepreneurial things,” she said. “When I came out of high school, I got a lot of support from my mom. She encouraged me to go to school. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I started working to figure it out.”

Last July, Naidoo earned the accreditation of Certified Payroll Professional. She currently splits her time between the company’s Seattle and Anchorage offices to provide support and help bridge the geographical gap.

“Some days are spent doing the basic things you would expect: paperwork, filing, etc.,” she said. “But a lot of what I do now is helping employees. There are a lot of moving parts and every day is different. Even though I’m officially in HR, I still try to connect our corporate community – employees, managers, families and the public – and get information out. For example, I started the years of service and recognition awards for the employees this year.”

Naidoo also coordinates the company’s scholarship program, awarding funds to high school graduates in rural communities where Delta Western operates.

“The scholarship program has been one of the most rewarding projects,” she said. “Being able to help students advance in their education and see them grow has been a privilege. I think the most challenging part of my job is learning the best way to connect and help people, particularly when geography separates us. But we’re learning to utilize new technology, and becoming more familiar with the different regions of Alaska through in-person visits have made a difference.”

A local meet-up of Instagram users – called an “Instameet” – regularly connects between 20 and 100 Seattle photographers. Photo: Michaela Naidoo.

Nice to ‘Instameet’ you

Naidoo’s interest in photography stems from a childhood where documenting life’s accomplishments was the norm.

“I got my first film camera from my aunt when I was eight and I took pictures of everything all the time,” she laughed. “I loved capturing things on film. I love capturing memories.”

An avid photographer, when the social media application Instagram launched in 2012, Naidoo was quick to sign up. The app allows users to post individual pictures, add effects, and post them for followers to comment on.

“When Instagram came out, the purpose behind it was to get people all over the world to share their love of photography,” she said. “There were also local meet-ups of app users called ‘Instameets.’”

Naidoo attended her first Seattle Instameet in 2012.

“I literally didn’t talk to anyone,” she said. “I came back though, and I ended up meeting the people who were running it. I started going to them regularly, and eventually, they asked me to volunteer.”

Naidoo adopted the role of Community Coordinator, encouraging Seattle’s Instagrammers to come out from behind their screens, meet fellow photographers and create together.
“Our hashtag is #igers_seattle,” she said. “The part I love most is encouraging people to come to our meetups, witnessing the connections they make, and then seeing them via the hashtag out with new friends taking pictures in the city.”

The hashtag has garnered more than 550,000 photos from different areas of the Puget Sound community: photographers, bloggers, restaurants, and local neighborhoods and establishments.

“Our Instameets have ranged from more than 100 people down to 20 people,” she said. “But each one is unique and brings new people together, creates new memories and connections.”

Taking ownership

“Probably what I’m most proud of right now is seeing the Instagrammers community grow, seeing the positive impact on the Seattle creative community, and also continuing to grow and gain a better understanding of our company,” she said. “There was a time when I didn’t really take a lot of ownership of working for Delta Western. Especially in Seattle – you don’t tell people you work for an oil company. But petroleum isn’t such a scary word in Alaska. We’re a company that provides a vital resource to people who wouldn’t otherwise have it and I am proud to be a part of that, and I’m proud of the positive impact I’m able to contribute to our growth and goals.”

DW heavy equipment inspector ‘huge supporter’ of tech, career ed

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on February 9, 2019

Dennis Massingham, Delta Western, Anchorage.

Delta Western’s Dennis Massingham: ‘I’m a lifelong learner.’

By Hilary Reeves

Dennis Massingham’s work history is a menagerie of life experiences – but perhaps he saved the best for last:

“I get to work with one of my former students from when I was a teacher at the University of Alaska in Anchorage (UAA),” he said. “Ben Hansen works for Carlile Transportation; we’ve been a team for the past two years. He travels with me to our fuel terminals to perform cargo tank inspections and truck maintenance. I’ve been able to mentor him, and he became a registered cargo tank inspector on Dec. 28, 2018. I’m very proud of him. How cool is that?”

Massingham’s current title of rolling Stock Supervisor for Delta Western’s Alaska operations is a comprehensive one. He coordinates and performs the maintenance and repair of the company’s trucking fleet and support equipment in and around terminals across the state.

“The most important thing I do is take care of the cargo tanks that haul our fuel products. I, too, am a registered cargo tank inspector. My name goes on all our cargo tanks; I make sure they are safe to use and are compliant with Alaska and Federal Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency. I have a special credential from the Feds that allows me to perform mobile cargo tank inspections at remote terminals not connected to the road system. It’s a huge responsibility with much accountability.”

Back to school

Massingham grew up in rural Thurston County, Washington, near the state’s capital city of Olympia on a “small family hobby farm.” His parents owned Massingham Trucking, a company that specialized in hauling forest timber.

“Of course,” he said, “that influenced the direction I took with my education and career.”

His “first real W2-type job” was at the Evergreen Sportsman’s Club.

“It’s a skeet and trap range,” he said. “When I turned 12 years old, I filed for a permit with the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries. I set the target machine that would fly the clay pigeons. It paid $2.75 per hour. In 2019, can you even imagine a 12-year-old working downrange at a shooting range? I miss the ’80s,” he laughed.

Massingham went on to attend what he considers a comprehensive high school vocational auto shop program at Tumwater High School, which sparked his interest in further academic achievement. He went on to earn an associate degree in Diesel Power Technology from Centralia College,

At the encouragement of an instructor, he transferred to the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and finished a Bachelor of Science in Diesel Power Technology.

“I’m a lifelong learner,” he said. “After working in the heavy equipment and transportation equipment industry for 10 years, I went back to school.”

This time, he said, he was the professor.

“I taught diesel technology at Lewis-Clark State College for five years. At the same time, I attended graduate school at the University of Idaho and earned a Master of Education in Professional-Technical education.”

From professor to fuel tank inspector

After graduating with his master’s degree, Massingham held positions at a large Caterpillar dealership in Idaho: Western States Equipment Co.

“I was a corporate trainer, training manager, HR generalist, recruiter, and probably a couple other titles I don’t remember,” he laughed. “My career is all a blur from there. As I mentioned, I was a professor at the University of Alaska before going to work at Delta Western.”

Massingham’s initial impression of Delta Western was limited to Anchorage, but he said his excitement built at the prospect of traveling to all the terminals.

“I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in many significant projects,” he said. “One project that stands out is a 350,000-gallon fuel transfer to a pair of Japanese warships that sailed to the Port of Anchorage for a fill-up. We used an engine-powered skid pump to move the fuel. The transfer took about 18 hours, and the electrical system on the engine was being temperamental with the salt spray and heavy rains. It took constant babysitting to keep running, but we completed the transfer safely, on time and under budget.”

“My career has been constantly changing, but the one thing that stays the same is I’ve always worked in the heavy equipment and transportation industry. Every job has been related to maintenance or technical education.”


While Massingham isn’t a big proponent of changing his past, his take gives pause: “I’m reflective, but I don’t dwell on the past except to learn from it.”

The aspects of his life of which he is most proud are all related to his family: 30 years of marriage to his wife, Tammy, the graduation of his son, an electrical engineer, from UAA, and the near-graduation of his daughter, a soon-to-be-nurse, from the same alma matar.

“I like to shore fish Hawaii and chill on the beach with my wife. Doesn’t Hawaii Petroleum need some cargo tank work done? Something in Kona probably needs maintenance,” he joked.

In all seriousness, Massingham said he’s excited to watch Delta Western and the other Northstar Energy companies grow.

“I see us moving into new communities – perhaps maybe we’ll see the gas station business grow, or maybe we’ll get into other energy products and new markets. Eventually, I’ll go back to school again and earn a doctorate in Education. When I get too old to crawl into cargo tanks, I’ll go back into academics or teaching. I enjoy helping people learn career-related skills and helping them grow their careers. I’m a huge supporter of career and technical education.”

NorthStar fuel pro reflects on early days in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on April 5, 2019

NorthStar Senior Inventory Specialist Robert Sevilla in Seattle.

Senior Inventory Specialist Robert Sevilla began his career in the field.

By Hilary Reeves

The winter of 2011 was a bad one for Alaskans: the snowiest winter on record and one of the coldest. That December, the crew of Delta Western Dutch Harbor heard that the coastal community of Nome was completely iced in and running out of fuel after a barge scheduled to arrive in the fall couldn’t make its delivery.

“We had to charter an ice class marine tanker to make the delivery from Dutch Harbor to Nome” over 300 miles of thick sea ice, said NorthStar’s Robert Sevilla. “I believe that if you put in the hard work and strive to better yourself every day that there is nothing you can’t achieve.”

Post-winter move

Sevilla started with Delta Western as a Fuel Dock attendant and driver in Dutch Harbor some 15 years ago. He transitioned to the role of Warehouse Administrator, maintaining the company’s packaged product inventory, then to the role of Office Administrator. By the spring of 2012, he was ready for a change.

“A position opened up in our Seattle corporate office for an Inventory Clerk, so I applied for the position and, luckily, I got it,” he said.

From there, Sevilla moved to his current position as Senior Inventory Specialist, a role that now sits in the NorthStar Energy supply group.

“I started in the field, so I enjoy seeing how everything unfolds, from purchasing our products to our site receiving them, selling to the customer to invoicing them. I get to see the paper trail from cradle to grave, sort of, and at the end of it all when the inventory is in balance, I know I did my job.”

Childhood challenges

The youngest of five children, Sevilla spent his childhood moving between the United States and the Philippines. His first job was encoding Census data for his brother’s NGO there.

“There was a project to collect data from the people living in the slums in Manila so the government would try to relocate them to better housings. It was something I understood because I grew up in a single-parent household with my mom working multiple jobs in the U.S. to make ends meet,” he explained. “She had to make a tough decision to send us home to the Philippines to stay with relatives. Living away from my parents was hard, but it built a strong foundation for my relationship with my siblings. My childhood had challenges, but I was still grateful because I knew that there are others who had less than me.”

“Living away from my parents was hard, but it built a strong foundation for my relationship with my siblings. My childhood had challenges, but I was still grateful because I knew that there are others who had less than me.”

Sevilla has been married for 16 years to his “wonderful wife,” and “has been blessed with two amazing daughters.” He said he’s grateful to have found his way to helping people in a slightly different capacity.

“I’m grateful for all the opportunities that the company has given me,” he said. “We have amazing people in place, and I believe we’re poised to do great things in our field, not only expanding the areas we service, but also venturing into alternative energy solutions. I see us continuing to be the best at what we do: providing safe, quality products and services for the people and communities that we serve.”

An energetic homecoming

This article was originally published on People of Saltchuk on April 29, 2019

Ryan Macnamara, Director of Pricing, NorthStar Energy.

Four years after embarking on an experiential quest, Ryan Macnamara is armed with the knowledge and know-how to help propel NorthStar into its (sustainable) future.

By Hilary Reeves

Ryan Macnamara was still studying marketing at Western Washington University in Bellingham when he decided to pursue an internship to help launch his career after graduation.

“I had a deep respect for Mike Garvey, whom I’d known from childhood, and I was interested in coming to join the Saltchuk family,” he said. “I reached out to him, and he put me in touch with a number of companies.”

It was Delta Western, Macnamara said, that most excited him – and the feeling was mutual. He began his decade-long stint with the company in Seattle a week after he graduated in 2004. By 2014, Macnamara was happily managing a bevy of accounts.
“I put my marketing degree to use learning the Alaska business, but after 10 years spent learning contract creation and management, the different types of accounts, and how to manage the relationships, I recognized that my primary gap as a professional was related to my limited operational experience,” he said.

In the early years, the solution seemed obvious: when the time was right, Macnamara and his wife would move to one of the company’s terminals in Alaska so he could begin a more “hands-on” phase of his career. But once the eldest of his two sons reached Kindergarten, he knew a move to Alaska wasn’t in the cards anymore.

“There was a time period where it would have worked, but by the time I really needed to make a change, we couldn’t do Alaska anymore,” he explained.

Enter Covich Williams, a local, family-owned Chevron marketer.

“I was approached by Covich Williams and I was immediately struck by how similar their business was to one of Delta Western’s Alaska terminals,” said Macnamara. “The company’s general manager of 30 years was leaving, and they needed a new GM to step in and manage inside and outside sales, the warehouse, drivers – everything I was looking for in terms of experience and exposure.”

Delta Western’s management was encouraging and left the door open – so Macnamara took the job.

“I learned a heck of a lot. I’m happy that I did it,” he said.

Bridging the gap with a new team

Four years later, Macnamara is back in the Saltchuk fold – this time at NorthStar, Delta Western’s parent company, working as a Director of Pricing under VP of Supply and Logistics Don Stone.

“This year, the time was finally right,” he said. “Under new NorthStar leadership, Delta Western was making big changes. I’d heard that a shared service model was being rolled out whereby critical business functions were being done at the parent company level in order to strengthen the role of site managers at the terminal locations, allowing them to focus on their strengths, take greater ownership over the performance of their local businesses, and know that they have a supportive team behind them at NorthStar.”
Macnamara has been in the office for just a month but said he already feels a synergy between his past experience, both at Delta Western and at Covich Williams, and his new role.

“With my new understanding of operations from Covich Williams I saw a perfect opportunity to join Don (Stone),” he said. “Don needed someone experienced who could take the lead developing pricing strategies for each Delta Western terminal. I would be able to have an immediate, measurable impact on the business overall, and for each one of the sites.”

Macnamara, who knew Stone from his years at Delta Western, said he’s always admired Stone’s ability to see opportunities in a complex network of interconnected, moving parts.
“He could make things come to life that other people weren’t able to even see, and you wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “Don was building up a new group dedicated to finding supply efficiencies on behalf of existing markets while probing growth opportunities in entirely new places. This team would allow me to make an impact as a connector between that global supply strategy and the local markets that I knew well. I’m excited to be a part of bridging the gap between those two worlds.”

‘A bit surreal’

One thing that’s been brought to the forefront in the years since Macnamara left is that NorthStar is an energy company chock-full of energy solutions.

“I now have the opportunity to explore energy alternatives that are a focus of this new NorthStar-Delta Western regime more than ever,” he said. “The change that thrills me the most is bridging the gap between the energy of today and the energy solutions of tomorrow. I’m thrilled to be supporting site managers so directly as a connector between the parent company shared service model and the boots-on-the-ground operations; I truly care about our sites.”

One thing that hasn’t changed, Macnamara said, is that everyone wears a lot of hats.
“It’s been a big whirlwind – a bit surreal. There’s a completely different team in place. I’m still learning about the team and the different roles and how things have changed. There’s a lot to tackle. Luckily, we have someone at the helm in Bert (Valdman) who’s a real visionary. I’m just loving being back.”

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