Northern Oilfield Solutions Kicks Off New Season Committed to Dependability

Northern Oilfield Solutions Kicks Off New Season Committed to Dependability

Press Release

New leadership and investment reinvigorate  fuel operations at Northern Oilfield Solutions to meet customer growth demand on Alaska’s North Slope

Deadhorse, AK – Northern Oilfield Solutions is committed to becoming the most dependable oilfield solutions and fueling partner for businesses operating on the North Slope.  Broadly projected growth in the market is exciting for business operating in the Arctic.  To ensure success during increased activity, Northern Oilfield Solutions has appointed Sam Amato as General Manager.  Mr Amato has decades of experience designing and delivering solutions to customers on the North Slope. He served as VP of Delta Leasing in Deadhorse for five years, and prior to that he excelled in sales and oilfield solutions for Lynden Transport for six years.  His deep understanding of oilfield logistics and market realities equip him to anticipate and deliver the solutions customers require as they enter a period of renewed growth and exploration. In his own words:

“There’s one word I’ve come to recognize as key to success in the arctic: ‘Dependable.’ For us this means showing up where and when we are expected with the solution we have promised.  To be successful, we have to consider the entire supply chain, from procuring quality fuel, to ensuring our import logistics are reliable with pre-established contingency plans, to employing the right team and taking care of them, to prioritizing equipment, including replacing or rebuilding assets. But for any of that to matter we have to start by truly understanding what our customers need and the problems we can solve for them.”

The enhanced focus on people and customers is at the core of Northern’s reinvigoration.    Through all of this, Sam and his team will be taking a hard look at how Northern operates, designing new and better ways for the company to enhance efficiency and deliver value to its remote customers.

Delta Western Successfully Executes Joint Response Preparedness Exercise in Juneau

Press Release

United States Coast Guard and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation join private sector partners for environmental table top drill

Juneau, AK – This week, employees from NorthStar Energy and Delta Western gathered in Juneau to complete a table top exercise with the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC).  The Tuesday exercise simulated a coordinated response to a severe earthquake causing an imaginary tank rupture and subsequent release of diesel fuel into Juneau’s Gastineau Channel.

“We now have an established, demonstrated knowledge on how to respond to and manage major incidents that spread throughout multiple Delta Western Sites, Inlet Energy, Northern Oilfield Solutions and NorthStar Energy,” said Nathan McLellan, Director of Business Operations and Risk Management for NorthStar Energy.  “Furthermore, this exercise established appropriate drill training and resources that equip our people to respond even more effectively in the event of an actual incident.”

Preparedness and safety, including environmental safety, are an important component of Delta Western’s business offering in Alaska.  To assist in response, Delta Western has engaged SEAPRO, an oil spill response organization (OSRO) for SE Alaska and Witt O’Brien, an incident management team. By regulation, Delta Western maintains a written contingency plan.  This week’s table top drill was an opportunity to comply with the ADEC regulatory requirement to demonstrate the ability to respond to obligations set forth therein.

Joel Lawrence, president of Inlet Energy summarized, “because of this exercise and the participation, we all came away learning so much more about these incidents and how to respond.  It prepares us to act quickly and effectively in the event of a true incident, which is essential for a business in this industry, especially in the costal communities we serve.”

About Delta Western

Delta Western is a leading independent distributor of petroleum products and lubricants in Alaska. Delta Western delivers an average of 200 million gallons of fuel annually and employs approximately 150 people, providing vital energy resources in support of communities, individuals, and Alaska’s most essential industries.

Media Contacts:

Piper Pettersen
NorthStar Energy 

Communications Manager

425 503 8716

NorthStar Energy Acquires Alaska Petroleum Distributing in Fairbanks

Press Release

Local family business joins NorthStar’s growing fuel network in Alaska 

Fairbanks, AK – NorthStar Energy, an energy holding company in the Saltchuk family of businesses, has acquired Alaska Petroleum Distributing (APD), a family owned petroleum distributor serving residential, commercial, and retail customers in Fairbanks, North Pole, and surrounding areas. 

Primarily a heating oil distributor, APD also owns and operates a local retail gas station including a convenience store and car wash.  NorthStar Energy has acquired many of APD’s assets and will continue to operate as Alaska Petroleum Distributing in the Fairbanks region.  Additionally, APD has moved operations to a new location on 1733 Well Street, a 24,000 square foot warehouse, which will provide the expansion space to grow their locally operated business and better serve their customers.

“We are proud to continue the APD brand the Johnson family has built over the past four decades.  Alaska Petroleum Distributing is known for their exceptional service and strong reputation with their customer base,” says Don Stone, VP of Supply and Logistics for NorthStar Energy.  “It’s exciting to welcome the Johnson family to the NorthStar Energy Petroleum group and provide the additional resources that allow APD to continue to serve the local market more efficiently and provide complementary product offerings.”

APD joins Delta Western Petroleum, Inlet Energy and Northern Oilfield Solutions in NorthStar’s network of Alaskan energy distribution businesses.  APD’s historic brand will remain in the care of second generation family members who will continue to manage and operate the business locally. NorthStar Energy looks forward to supporting Alaska Petroleum’s ongoing success for  years to come.

About NorthStar Energy

NorthStar Energy is a Seattle-based energy holding company in the Saltchuk family of businesses. NorthStar invests in fuel and energy distribution companies in Alaska and Hawaii with a mission to be the vital link to the most reliable, best in class, integrated energy solution, guiding customers to the future of fuel.

Media Contacts:

Piper Pettersen
NorthStar Energy 

Communications Manager

425 503 8716

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.”


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