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Meet the AAPA Leadership and Staff

About AAPA
Founded in 1912 and recognized as the unified voice of seaports in the Americas, AAPA today represents 130 of the leading seaport authorities in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean, and more than 200 industry solution providers, supply chain partners, academics, and firms and individuals with an interest in seaports. According to  IHS Markit’s World Trade Service, combined international sea trade moving through Western Hemisphere ports in 2017 totaled 4.303 billion metric tons in volume and US$2.675 trillion in value. Of that total, ports in Central and South America handled 1.741 billion metric tons of cargo valued at US$1.024 trillion, while North American ports handled 1.90 billion metric tons of goods, valued at US$2.305 trillion. To meet the growing demand for trade, AAPA and its members are committed to keeping seaports navigable, secure and sustainable. 

Biographies of AAPA Leadership

MARIO CORDERO, 2020-22 Chairman of the Board 

Mario Cordero, an international maritime industry leader, Long Beach resident and attorney, is Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach, California, named to the post by the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, effective May 15, 2017.

Beginning in 2003, Mr. Cordero served as a member, vice president and president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners for eight years, before resigning to accept President Barack Obama’s appointment to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) in 2011. He served on the FMC until May 2017 and was FMC Chairman from April 2013 to January 2017. 

As Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach, Mr. Cordero reports to the Board and leads the Port’s Harbor Department staff of in excess of 500 with an annual budget of $775 million. Inclusiveness and collaboration are hallmarks of Mr. Cordero’s leadership style, and due to both his Port and FMC leadership experience, he understands the needs of ocean carriers, terminal operators, cargo owners and other trade partners locally, nationally and around the globe.

During his tenure as a Long Beach Harbor Commissioner, Mr. Cordero spearheaded the development of the pioneering Green Port Policy, which outlines a sustainable environmental ethic for all Port operations, mandating that trade growth must run parallel with environmental stewardship. The Policy has been nationally recognized and become a model for ports worldwide. In an effort to help the public to better understand Port operations and how the Port benefits the Long Beach citizens it serves, Mr. Cordero also promoted an expanded Port community outreach program. He was recently appointed as the Port’s Representative to the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority Governing Board and to the Governing Board of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility-Joint Powers Authority for a five-year term.

Mr. Cordero has practiced law for more than 30 years, specializing in workers’ compensation cases. He is a past member of the Federal Bar Association’s Central District, the Long Beach Bar Association and former Chairman of the Workers Compensation Committees for both the Long Beach Bar Association and the Mexican- American Bar Association for the County of Los Angeles. He has taught Political Science at Long Beach City College, focusing on California Politics, and served on the City of Long Beach Community Development Commission. He holds a law degree from the University of Santa Clara and a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from California State University, Long Beach. Mario is a classical music pianist, playing since the age of 8, and also expresses himself through poetry. He and his wife reside in Long Beach and have two children.

CHRISTOPHER J. CONNOR, President and Chief Executive Officer

Chris Connor is the President & CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities. He is the former Global President & Chief Executive Officer of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS (WWL), one of the world’s largest ocean car carriers, and vehicle logistics groups. As CEO, Mr. Connor guided the company through a period of significant transformation in its core ocean transport business, while driving rapid growth in the vehicle logistics arena. His reputation as an industry leader and globally recognized expert in deep-sea ocean transport and land-based logistics is based on an authentic leadership approach and his ability to transform strategy into profit-generating results.

Mr. Connor, who has over 38 years of experience in international shipping and logistics, began his career at United States Lines in 1981, followed by Crowley Maritime in 1987, prior to joining Wallenius Lines in 1994. In addition to roles in the USA, Chris’ career path brought him to Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and finally to Norway as CEO of WWL. Since September 2017, Mr. Connor has been a Board Member at The Pasha Group and, since June 2018 Chairman of the Business Advisory Board at Xylyx Bio.

Mr. Connor is a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), where he earned a Board Governance Fellowship designation in March 2017. He has served as a keynote speaker and panelist for several national summits including Automotive Supply Chain Congress and The Economist World Ocean Summit. In 2013, Automotive Supply Chain Magazine named Mr. Connor Logistician of the Year. Mr. Connor is a graduate of Villanova University, Villanova, PA.

Biographies of AAPA Staff

MEREDITH MARTINO, Vice President of Membership and Sponsorship

Ms. Martino serves as AAPA’s Vice President of Membership and Sponsorship, where she is responsible for the engagement of the Association’s membership by implementing two of AAPA’s five strategic plan goals: relevance and relationship building in addition to sponsorship development. Meredith oversees the creation and delivery of industry content through the Association's publications, digital media and key industry conferences. She also directs AAPA’s utilization of its engagement management system, iMIS 20.   

Ms. Martino is a liaison to the Association’s Information Technology Committee, AAPA’s Cruise Committee and oversees the Association’s annual Information Technology Awards and Environmental Improvement Awards. She has authored articles for Seaports magazine on LNG, shipping line alliances, electrification of port equipment, Foreign Trade Zones at ports and the adoption of comprehensive energy policies at ports.

Prior to joining AAPA, Ms. Martino was Manager of Government Relations for the Travel Industry Association of America and worked on Capitol Hill for U.S. Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota.

Ms. Martino holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism from Ohio University (Athens, OH) and a Master of Arts in Political Management from The George Washington University (Washington, DC).

MARY BETH LONG, Vice President of Marketing and Professional/Workforce Development

Mary Beth Long's role as Vice President of Marketing and Professional/Workforce Development is to oversee the Association’s strategic goals of awareness and professional development as well as to implement the U.S. Department of Labor ACCELerate grant program.

Ms. Long has held several roles at the association during her career that have focused on promoting the seaport industry through advocacy campaigns, industry partnerships and member engagement. She has also served in the association’s government relations department as a lobbyist on security and freight transportation issues.

Prior to joining AAPA in 1999, Ms. Long coordinated the legislative activities at the law firm of Thomson Coburn. Washington, DC. In 1996-1998, she worked for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where she promoted Chairman Bud Shuster's agenda to outside constituent groups and other members of Congress. She began her legislative career by promoting the interests of motor carriers through the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.

Ms. Long holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The Catholic University of America and a Master of Arts in Public Communication from The American University, both in Washington, D.C.

CARY DAVIS, Senior Government Relations Director and General Counsel

Cary has had a career in Federal law and politics, helping organizations tell their success stories in Washington, D.C. At AAPA, Cary helps tell the story of American seaports and their communities when Congress and the President make decisions on trade, security, transportation, and infrastructure.

Prior to AAPA, at American Continental Group (ACG), Cary worked with firms such as Nike, Toyota, Continental, ThyssenKrupp, and global shipping line CMA CGM to navigate trade policy and tariffs, supply chain security, and crisis resolution.

In the Federal Government, Cary served as a Presidential appointee at the International Trade Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce. There he worked on supply chain security in sensitive industries, China trade negotiations, and greater opportunities for American workers.

While working in Congress, Cary served as Legislative Director and General Counsel for Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY), Chairman of a Homeland Security subcommittee. 

As a litigator at Reed Smith, Cary worked on international commercial disputes involving contracts, labor, taxes, and data privacy.

Cary received his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and his Masters in Public Policy from the University of Pennsylvania Fels Institute. While at Penn Law, Cary served as a Law Clerk for Senator Ron Johnson on the Committee on Homeland Security and as a Law Clerk for Judge Tom Hardiman on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cary serves as staff liaison to AAPA’s Security Committee and Law Review Committee.

C.Davis

MARANDA JONES-ANDERSONDirector of Finance and Grant Management

Maranda Jones-Anderson is the Director of Finance and Grant Management at AAPA. Maranda's role is to oversee AAPA's finance operations and work in partnership to manage the Department of Labor grant. 

Maranda has excelled in the non-profit sector and brings a wealth of knowledge and more than 15 years of experience. She has held several senior level positions prior to joining AAPA. Maranda has managed over half a billion in assets, developed and mentored staff, led smart and responsible fiscal policy and implemented innovative accounting technologies to leverage and increase performance margins. 

Maranda is from Los Angeles, CA and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of the District of Columbia. She holds separate Bachelors of Business Administration degrees in Accounting and Business Management. Maranda continued her education in the University of Maryland system and holds two advanced degrees: Master of Science with a concentration in Accounting and the Masters of Business of Administration degree. Maranda is actively pursuing her Certified Public Accountant license in the State of Maryland. 

Maranda has been recognized many times throughout her career, including special honors for her commitment, leadership and service to others. Maranda resides in Upper Marlboro, Maryland with her husband and children.

EDWARD L. O'CONNELL, Membership Recruitment

Mr. O'Connell is responsible for coordinating and marketing the Association's education and training programs, Spring Conference, Annual Convention, and other services. He administers membership files and is responsible for dues assessments and credentials filing.

Prior to joining AAPA in August 1997, Mr. O'Connell ran a consulting business focusing on helping organizations with revenue development, meeting planning, and government relations. From 1988 to 1995 he was Director of Membership and Finance/Treasurer for the National Grain and Feed Association. There he directed a membership marketing program; was staff liaison for association committees; managed association meetings, including contract negotiations, marketing, logistics, foundations events, and sponsorships; analyzed income and expense items, and was a regular contributor to the association's publications.

Other previous experience includes 12 years of integrated operations management experience in the areas of credit card operation, financial management, retail banking, and marketing. Mr. O'Connell holds a Master's degree in Economics from SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, and a Bachelor's degree from SUNY Oswego in Oswego, New York.

AARON ELLIS, APR, Fellow PRSA Public Affairs Director 

Mr. Ellis is is responsible for AAPA's public affairs activities, media relations, and is the liaison to the association's Public Relations Committee.

Prior to joining AAPA in November 2004, Mr. Ellis served for 13 years as the maritime media relations manager for the Port of Portland, in Portland, Ore. There, he provided strategic communications management and assistance for both the marine and real estate divisions of the port. Prior to that, he served as a public relations specialist for the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry in Portland, and earlier as an account manager for two public relations agencies (in Salem, Ore., and San Diego, Calif.) and a general assignment reporter for three newspapers (in Eugene, Ore., El Cajon, Calif., and Salem, Ore.).

Mr. Ellis holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Journalism from the University of Oregon and a Professional Development Certificate in Marketing from Portland State University. He's active in the Public Relations Society of America, serves on the PRSA-National Capital Chapter board in Washington, D.C., and earned his Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certification in 1991, and his Fellow PRSA designation in 2016. 

TOM HRANAC, Membership Retention and Experience

Tom Hranac joined AAPA in July 2014. He currently helps coordinate and market the AAPA's education and training programs, provides support for the association's website and database, manages the association's Spanish publications and social media presence, as well as serving as a liaison for Latin American ports.

Prior to joining AAPA, Mr. Hranac was a community organizer with the United Auto Workers advocating for labor rights campaigns in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Before working with the UAW, he lived in Madrid, Spain, where he taught English as a second language and coached baseball for the Federación Madrileña de Béisbol y Sófbol.

Mr. Hranac holds Bachelor’s degrees in History and Spanish from Nebraska Wesleyan University and Master’s degrees in Spanish and Latin American Literature from New York University and Contemporary History from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

JIM WALKER, Director of Navigation Policy and Legislation

Mr. Walker is responsible for handling waterside infrastructure issues and relevant legislative and regulatory matters, including AAPA’s Quality Partnership Initiative (QPI) with the Army Corps of Engineers.  He serves as staff liaison to the Harbors and Navigation Committee. 

Mr. Walker’s experience includes a 36-year career with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in navigation support, culminating with six years at Corps Headquarters leading its navigation program.  As the leader of the Corps navigation program, he was in charge of a $2 billion annual budget over a 27 river inland marine transportation system (IMTS) and over 900 coastal navigation projects. His major accomplishments include the development of a Navigation Strategic Vision, an IMTS Capital Projects Business Model, formal partnering with the Dredging Contractors of America, successful execution of ARRA funds, and development of the 2007 Water Resources and Development Act implementation guidance. 

Mr. Walker, who is a registered Professional Engineer (P.E.), holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of South Alabama, and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University.

Jim_Walker

EVAN CHAPMAN, Director of Government Relations

Evan Chapman is a Director, Government Relations at the American Association of Port Authorities. In this capacity, Chapman helps lead the Association’s outreach efforts to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and federal agencies.

Before joining the Association, Evan served as a senior aide to Congressman and Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-3). In this role, he was the Congressman’s principal counselor on issues related to energy, the environment, transportation, and agriculture. During his time in the office, he worked on behalf of the Congressman to increase infrastructure resilience, and to continue improvements in the health of the Chesapeake Bay. On the Congressman’s behalf, Mr. Chapman also co-led efforts to bring federal recognition to Virginia’s Native American Tribes.

Mr. Chapman most recently worked with the Pew Charitable Trusts as a member of the Flood Prepared Communities initiative, where he worked to reduce the impact of flooding and extreme weather through policies that incentivize resilient infrastructure.

A native of Herndon, Virginia, Evan received his B.S. in Political Communication from Emerson College, and an M.P.P. from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. He is also a graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia.

E. Chapman

RAFAEL J. DÍAZ-BALART, Latin American Coordinator

Mr. Diaz-Balart is CEO and Founder of Vestec International Corporation, a Florida Corporation established in 1993. Since March 2009, Mr. Diaz-Balart has been serving as Latin American Coordinator for AAPA.

Prior to forming Vestec, Mr. Diaz-Balart served in executive capacities with IBJ Schroder International Bank, Paine Webber, Barnett Bank and the National Bank of Washington, D.C. Mr. Diaz-Balart also has served as Consultant to the Office of the Special Advisor to the President of Venezuela. In partnership with the principals of the Brazilian financial group—Banco Paulista/Socopa, Mr. Diaz-Balart founded InterTrust Bank Limited (Bahamas). He also advised in the creation of The Florida Special Opportunity Fund, an off-shore investment vehicle for U.S. based commercial real estate transactions, administered by The Allen Morris Company. Vestec advises U.S., Latin American and Spanish companies in their international operations, including companies in the maritime, financial, educational and energy sectors.

Mr. Diaz-Balart holds a Bachelors of Arts (Government) degree from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and a Masters of Business Administration from The American University, (Washington, D.C.)

PAM MAHER, Communications and Publications Manager 

As the communications and publications manager for AAPA, Pam Maher oversees the Advisory e-Newsletter, AAPA’s Seaports Magazine, Pocket Guide, Membership Directory, website, and microsite.

Pam has wide experience in the publishing industry utilizing the latest technology for editing, page layout and design, and printing publications. Her experience includes a 10-year career in the publications division of a leading medical organization representing members from around the globe, where she held the position of production and electronic pre-press manager.

Prior to joining AAPA in December 2014, Pam was part owner of a family-owned, marine-based business where she learned countless lessons that helped her grow as a manager and a person. After graduating from Penn State, Pam began a career path in communications and customer advocacy with a major airline.

Pam Maher

RENITA GROSS,  Conferences and Events Manager 

Renita Gross joined AAPA in December 2019, as the Conferences and Events Manager for the Association. She is responsible for the overall logistics of most AAPA annual events. Ms. Gross is also essential in managing the AAPA Annual Convention & Expo, an annual gathering of approximately 600 port industry executives, solution providers, exhibitors, guests, and media. 

Ms. Gross assists the Member Engagement Department and plays a key role in customer service and delivering high-quality in-person experiences for AAPA’s member port authorities, industry solution providers, maritime community partners, and academic partners. 

Prior to joining AAPA, Ms. Gross spent 15 years as the Director of Meetings and Information Systems at a trade association located in Arlington, VA.Ms. Gross graduated from The George Washington University and is an accomplished meeting professional with over 25 years in the industry.

 

Renita Gross

DEREK MILLER, Government Relations Associate

Derek Miller is an Associate in the Government Relations department, working with the rest of the team to advocate for the policy positions of AAPA members in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AAPA, Derek worked for Stove Boat Communications, a public affairs firm specializing in helping maritime clients to achieve their policy objectives and reduce regulatory burdens. Over the course of five years at Stove Boat, Derek worked with a range of marine-based industries including commercial fishing, shipping, offshore energy, and ports.

Derek also helped manage a trade association on behalf of the commercial fishing industry with members on the East, West, and Gulf coasts; as well as Hawaii. The trade association’s mission was to be a national voice for regional groups who lacked the resources to operate in Washington on their own.

Derek holds a BA in Political Science from The George Washington University.

KATHARINE MILLER, Database Manager

Katharine (Katie) Miller joined AAPA in July 2018 as Database Manager for the Association. In this role, she performs database and web content management and assists the AAPA marketing/communications team.

Katharine is a seasoned technology professional with over twenty years of combined database, web and project management experience, working for associations such as the National Medical Association, National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and American Wind Energy Association prior to joining AAPA. 

Ms. Miller holds a Bachelor's of Science in Information Systems, Database Management and Web Development from Strayer University. 

JULIE BARELAS, Grant Coordinator

Julie Barelas works in partnership with the grant team in support of the ACCELerate program, a new initiative through a U.S. Department of Labor grant. Julie joined AAPA, January 2020 as Executive Assistant to Administration. Ms. Barelas’ professional background is in program management and client relations within the government, military and educational sectors.

Julie is engaged as a volunteer at JK Community Farm, in the Washington DC area, an organization that grows and provides fresh, organic fruit, vegetables for the food insecure including children and senior citizens. She also participates in local charity 5K events.

Julie Barelas

AMY SEXTON, Financial Services and Human Resources Coordinator

Ms. Sexton, originally from Atlanta, Georgia, started with AAPA in early 2019 as a contractor for Financial Services and Human Resources Coordinator. She attended Brenau University. Amy holds over 20 years of experience in Accounting. Ms. Sexton enjoys travel, sharing a meal and conversation with friends, movies, and spending time with her daughter, a Junior at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. Ms. Sexton moved to Washington, D.C. a little over a year ago for a change of scenery, adventure, and a new beginning.

Amy Sexton headshot