A vision is a distinct, clear, and focused image of the future, and it is frequently associated with significant organizational advancements. Effective leaders will articulate their vision in a way that inspires excitement and dedication among all members of the company. The difference between a manager and a leader lies in their capacity to articulate a vision and utilize it to motivate others.
Kristin Decas is a seasoned leader who consistently proves her capacity to develop a vision and carry out a plan through open, collaborative methods that encourage outcomes. The CEO of the Port of Hueneme is passionate, focused, and committed to serving the needs of the local community and Port customers.
For the first 18 years of her life, Kristin lived in New York, where she was born. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s in economics with a minor in philosophy and from the University of Denver with a master’s in environmental policy and law with a concentration in natural resources. She began her career at the Port of New Bedford in Massachusetts, the top-value fishing port in the country, and has held the position of Port Director and CEO for the past 16 years. She reasoned that it would be wise to consider opportunities for professional advancement after serving in that position for six years. As soon as she learned about the Port of Hueneme’s port director/CEO position, she made the decision to apply.
Throughout the interview process, Kristin discovered she truly loved the location, the neighborhood, and the port, which increased her excitement for the chance. Nearly ten years later, she still genuinely loves her job and working with her amazing staff, the best clients, and neighborhood partners. She adds, “I am fortunate to be part of it.”
The Port of Hueneme is one of the West Coast’s busiest and most effective cargo trading gateways. The port, which is governed by five locally elected Port Commissioners, is the sixth-largest on the west coast and the fourth-largest in California. The port consistently ranks among the top 10 U.S. ports for vehicles and fresh vegetables, moving $11.4 billion worth of commodities annually. Port operations benefit the neighborhood by generating $2.2 billion in economic activity and 20,032 jobs in the trade sector. More than $173 million in direct and associated state and local taxes are generated by trade via the Port of Hueneme, and these taxes are used to pay for essential community services. The Port has had a number of accomplishments thanks to the board’s vision and the team’s dedication. On the front of foreign trade, freight saw a gain of 58% and revenues increased by an astonishing 116%.
Steps to Community Service
The Port of Hueneme places a high priority on the community. Beginning in 2012, Kristin and her team started hosting an annual Banana Festival to honor the working waterfront, which is currently attended by over 12,000 people annually. During the pandemic, “Feeding the Frontline” programs took the place of the festival, utilizing Port clients, local small business owners, volunteers, and health clinics to provide over 40,500 families in Ventura County with over 1.1 million pounds of vegetables and other resources. They established an environmental framework, which resulted in the installation of a shoreside power system where vessels plug in at berth, making them emission-free and the development of world-class air quality monitoring in South Oxnard.
The Port won the title of greenest port in the US at the International Green Shipping Summit in 2017, becoming the first port in California to receive Green Marine Certification in California (a third-party environmental audit). The Board approved a decarbonization resolution in November 2021.
Successful Supply Chain Leaders’ Traits
For the upcoming generation of leaders in the product movement, there are an increasing number of academic options at higher education levels that are easily accessible. According to Kristin, backgrounds in a variety of industries pave the way for individuals to advance to leadership roles throughout the supply chain. Soft skills must be preserved despite the digital age’s temptations and technologies, though. Kristin contributed to a publication and co-authored a chapter on the future of transportation professionals and workforce development. She conducted an American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) poll of port CEOs across the country in order to gather the most accurate information available, and the results showed that leadership, interpersonal communication, and teamwork skills are the most in-demand skill sets.
Kristin says, “The vote of confidence from my board made me the first woman to lead both the Port of New Bedford in its more than 50-year history and the Port of Hueneme in its 85-year history.”
The Effects of the Pandemic
The supply chain suffered during the epidemic from exponential surges in consumer spending that caused ships to line up offshore, overflowing warehouses, railroad embargoes, equipment shortages, and significant strains on trucking and labor. The longshoremen and longshorewomen, as well as all the crucial personnel that stood up during this time, are appreciated by the Port of Hueneme. There is currently a lot of uncertainty, rising interest rates, volatile financial markets, and inflation. As such, the team must be adaptable, become more skilled at making predictions, and sustainably increase capacity. At the Port of Hueneme, Kristin and her crew are assisting in reducing supply disruption while observing a massive rise in trade from both imports and exports. Bottlenecking at warehouses, ports, and railyards, as well as equipment and trucker shortages elsewhere, all contribute to the relocation of some cargo in this manner. Products including furniture, frozen meat, clothing, electronics, musical instruments, and medical supplies are new to the port.
The Port of Hueneme model functions successfully because it is compact enough to give clients flexibility, accessibility, and concierge services. Kristin remarked that compared to the larger ports, they are hardly crowded. A car or container that arrives at the port is immediately driven to one of the several distribution centers for inspection before being delivered to markets in fifteen western states.
In order to know what cargo they can handle without bottlenecking, the quasi-operating model enables one to keep a close eye on the entire supply chain. In order to transport the cargo without creating the congestion experienced at larger ports, this means collaborating closely with the clients to make sure they have the tools and delivery strategies in place.
Barriers Along the Way
Taking on the position of Port Director at the Port of New Bedford with a degree in marine but no experience in actual port management was one of the most difficult experiences of Kristin’s career. She was thrust into a world with more than 3,000 fishermen and a shoreline that was predominately male. She turned to the former mayor of New Bedford, Lang, who was her then-boss and is currently one of her finest mentors. He instructed her to make a fist and encouraged her to do it in his office. He was urging her to put her thoughts in the right place so that she might always be in the right boxing bout and win. She has overcome many challenges with the help of this modest but crucial bit of advice.
Managing Multiple Tasks at Work
According to Kristin, most people are unaware of what port directors do for a job. She is involved in operations, budget, and business expansion. Her tasks include influencing state and federal public policy regarding regulations under consideration, such as trade and tariff policy, an issue that is of utmost importance right now. She needs to be aware of the network’s infrastructure, transportation, commodity flow, supply chain, and ways to succeed inside it in her work centers around business, the community, the environment, and job creation. Her job entails managing a business and fostering a happy and productive workplace.
The most rewarding part of her job is creating opportunities, which can be as simple as making a new hire to transform the lives of a family, watching the interns pursue and succeed in developing maritime careers, serving the community through events like “Feeding the Frontline,” or luring a new line of business that generates hundreds of jobs. Kristin is motivated and eager to start working each morning by the taste of victory and being a part of a winning team. She believes that while one must be willing to push through challenging times in order to seize opportunities and achieve game-changing outcomes, doing so is extremely gratifying.
Sharing the Best of Living
Kristin believes that there are only two kinds of experiences: learning and good.’ With a genuine delight in assisting others in achieving success, Kristin would define herself as an optimist. She enjoys doing yoga because it has taught her that falling down is acceptable and that the best part is how one gets back up and what he or she does next. Her girls, who are 17 and 20, try to embody this in their friendships, sports, and academics.
This mindset is what Kristin tries to implement at work. Her objective is to enable her team to achieve success and fulfil their career aspirations. She tells her team that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them, look for the positive, and you’ll succeed on the next play. She is assured that by embracing this approach, she has created a winning organization and a winning team.
Words of Advice for Female Leaders
According to Kristin, women holding the top positions should be the norm in society. She believes that diversity creates a platform for educated and fair decision-making, which is essential to a company’s success. Diversity also brings new perspectives and ideas to the table. Her main philosophical wish is for people to respect one another’s differences of opinion. She believes it is the civic duty of leaders to play a key role in promoting social justice. Women in leadership positions can pave the way for other women, but they can also make sure that other women are heard, support good ideas, and give credit where it is due.
Kristin advises women to have the confidence to pursue their goals in addition to working hard and seizing chances as they present themselves. “She was the only woman of 60 applicants to apply for the Port of Hueneme CEO post. Her message,” women need to go for the big jobs”. This may contribute to a paradigm shift toward more female CEOs.
Written by Steve Sanchez.
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