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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

A. PAUL ANDERSON2022-24 Chairman of the Board 

Paul Anderson is a Former Federal Maritime Commissioner and joined Port Tampa Bay as Chief Executive Officer in December 2012 after holding a series of high-profile leadership positions in the public and private sectors. Prior to joining Port Tampa Bay, Mr. Anderson was the Chief Executive Officer at the Jacksonville Port Authority. 

Nominated to the Federal Maritime Commission by President George W. Bush in 2003, and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2004, Anderson served a five-year term ending in 2008. In addition, the president designated Anderson as the Commission’s Chairman and re-nominated him for a second five-year term. A highlight of Anderson’s service included his appointment to the Committee on Marine Transportation, a cabinet-level strategy group responsible for the nation’s seaports and reporting directly to the president.

Anderson spent 10 years with JM Family Enterprises; a diversified automobile business headquartered in Deerfield Beach, Florida, and was previously a senior director of Seabulk Marine, Inc., an international marine transportation company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has also served as an advisor on intermodal issues to former Florida governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. 

Anderson currently serves as chair of the American Association of Port Authorities. Additionally, he currently serves as Chairman of the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC). He recently completed a second term as the Chairman of the Florida Ports Council, having been reelected by his fellow Florida port directors and as well as previously serving as chair of the Florida Seaport Transportation and Economic Development Council (FSTED). Anderson also serves on the board of directors for the Florida Chamber of Commerce; Associated Industries of Florida; Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation; Leukemia Lymphoma Society; The Florida Aquarium; Visit Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay EDC; and the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). He has also held numerous community leadership positions including Chair, Board of Trustees, Broward (FL) Community College; Chair, Broward Alliance; Chair, Broward Health Foundation; Board of Directors of The Orange Bowl Committee; Board of Advisors of the South Florida PGA; and the National Executive Committee of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Anderson recently served as co-chair of the Jack H. Lucas Commissioning Committee. The Jack H. Lucas Commissioning Committee, Navy League of Tampa and U.S. Department of the Navy worked to host the historic commissioning of the USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG 125) Arleigh Burke-Class Warship. Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship into active Navy service. The commissioning ceremony is one of the most significant milestones in the life of a U.S. Navy ship. The committee raised money to support the ship and her crew, after the ship was officially commissioned into service.  

Anderson has lived in Florida for over 35 years and relocated with his family to Tampa, except during the period of his public service in Washington, D.C.  Anderson is a 1982 graduate of the University of Florida and completed the Senior Managers in Government program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

CARY DAVIS, President and CEO

Cary is President and CEO of AAPA and also serves as General Counsel. He joined the association in 2019 and served as head of Government Relations. He tells the story of seaports and their workers when the President and Congress make decisions on infrastructure, transportation, trade, and security.

Prior, Cary served in the Federal Government as a Presidential and Congressional appointee for international trade and security.

He has appeared in the New York Times, the BBC, Politico, and Bloomberg to discuss supply chains and economics. He has written and passed legislation on infrastructure for climate change and international trade. His work has been featured in The Drudge Report, CNN, Newsweek, Breitbart, and Zero Hedge.

Cary serves on the board of the Propeller Club of Washington, D.C. and was nominated CEO Update Lobbyist of the Year in 2021 for his work to address supply chain disruptions from the pandemic.

He received his J.D. and Masters from the University of Pennsylvania and his B.S. from Pitt, spending his early years in his beloved home state of Pennsylvania.

Cary Davis headshot 2024

Biographies of AAPA Staff

KEVIN TRAVER, Vice President of Business Development

Mr. Traver serves as AAPA’s Vice President of Business Development, where he 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.

Kevin's previous roles include: CCO of the American Trucking Association (ATA), Executive Director of the Marine Technology Society (MTS), VP of Corporate Affairs and Development for the Navy League of the United States (NLUS), and Executive Director of the National Maritime Heritage Foundation (NMHF). Kevin also worked as a consultant providing clients with major donor development, sales, and fundraising plans.

Kevin served in the United State Marine Corps with almost 10 years of active service, including yearlong tours in Japan, Sri Lanka, Ireland and visits to 54 countries. Kevin holds a BA in Diplomatic History from the University of Connecticut.

MELODIE GEORGE, Senior Director of Strategic Communications & Marketing

Melodie is responsible for leading and executing a comprehensive marketing and communications strategy that promotes AAPA’s mission, enhances brand recognition, drives event growth, and engages AAPA’s diverse membership.

Prior to joining AAPA, Melodie worked on the Global Partnerships & Marketing team at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for several years, creating and executing tailored marketing solutions to elevate brands within the business community.

Melodie holds a dual BA in Political Science and English Literature from Loyola University New Orleans and a MS in Print and Digital Media from NYU. A native of New Orleans, Melodie currently resides in Silver Spring, MD with her wife, daughter, and rescue pup.

CHELSEA KERTES, Director of Conferences and Events

Chelsea has over 10 years of experience within the events industry and is excited to bring that knowledge and expertise to AAPA as the Director of Conferences and Events.

Before joining AAPA, she held event and volunteer management roles mainly within the sports and leisure/travel and tourism industries. Most recently, Chelsea was a conference producer at Smithers, where she handled the production and sponsorship responsibilities for her portfolio of conferences within the paper, packaging, technology, agriculture, and food contact spaces.

She earned a BA in Sport Management and Public Relations from Baldwin Wallace University, as well as an MBA from Tiffin University. She lives in Akron, Ohio with her boyfriend and dog. Chelsea loves to travel, hike, and spend as much time with her family and friends as she can.

JOHN BRESSLER, Vice President of Government Relations

John joins AAPA after 8 years of working his way up at the National Air Traffic Controllers (NATCA), where his ultimate role was overseeing the union’s government relations and political department.  

In total, John has 15 years of professional experience – including 10 years on Capitol Hill serving as former House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Chair Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s Legislative Director where he led successful implementation of the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act. He also held senior level staff roles on the influential House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I). 

IAN GANSLER, Manager of Energy, Resilience, and Sustainability Policy

Ian Gansler comes to AAPA from the DC lobbying firm of O’Neill and Associates. There he worked for AAPA member Massport on federal policy issues. He also worked for other transportation industry clients, including a high-speed rail advocacy group, American Airlines’ flight attendants union and Jay Cashman, Inc. on federal dredging and offshore wind policy.

Prior to working for O’Neill and Associates, Ian worked for End Citizens United, a PAC dedicated to electing Democrats to Congress to champion campaign finance reform. He has also interned with his hometown’s Congressman, House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA-2), both in DC and Worcester, MA.

A graduate from American University’s School of Public Affairs, Ian is currently pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at Georgetown University in the evenings on a part-time basis.

SHAWN BALCOMB, Public Affairs Manager

Shawn brings years of communications experience in federal and state government as well as on campaigns and in the private sector.

Shawn has more than six years of experience in government and campaign communications at the state and federal levels. He has served former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; then-Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp; a first-time congressional candidate (who was a U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduate and experienced navigator) in a swing district; Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas; and on public affairs campaigns for private sector clients at Plus Communications.

Most recently, Shawn was communications director for Rep. Maria Salazar of Florida, a champion of the Port of Miami, increased development and trade in Latin America, and other coastal maritime priorities. Shawn is originally from New Jersey and graduated from the University of Georgia where he received a B.A. in Communication Studies.

SHANNON MCLEOD, Vice President of Member Services

Shannon McLeod leads the member services team and is responsible for overseeing the development and administration of AAPA’s programs that provide invaluable resources and support to our members. Prior to joining AAPA in 2022, she was a consultant for more than 20 years, providing project management and technical direction to ports on maritime, strategic, financial, and supply chain initiatives.

Shannon was an author and researcher on the Port Planning and Investment Toolkit, NCFRP Reports “Making U.S. Ports Resilient as Part of Extended Intermodal Supply Chains” and “Freight Transportation Resilience in Response to Supply Chain Disruptions”, and ASCE’s “Future Marine Highway Development in the US” and “Enhancing U.S. Port Resiliency”.

Shannon has a BS in public relations from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in maritime, port and logistics management from Old Dominion University. She is the chair of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board (TRB) Marine Group, former chair of the TRB Ports and Channels Committee, and an Alpha class graduate of AAPA’s Port Professional Manager program.

Shannon McLeod headshot 2024

LIZ MANCINI, Senior Manager of Member Services

Liz Mancini has over 35 years of diverse experience working in the association industry. Throughout her career, Liz has provided proven experience guiding executive teams through strategic planning initiatives; developing and delivering successful budgets; planning and directing efficient and secure IT installations; launching new and innovative member services and products; executing effective internal and external communications plans across all association operations; designing, implementing, and administering CRM/AMS database systems; and collaborating with events teams to produce exciting, educational, and profitable member events.

Liz was previously the Executive Director for the International Association of Special Investigation Units, Inc. (IASIU). Prior to that, Liz served as Manager of Member Relations, Retention and Information Technology at The Business Council of New York State, Inc. in Albany, NY.

Liz received an associate degree as an early admissions student from Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Johnstown, NY and a bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, NY. She is a New York State commissioned Notary Public. Liz currently serves as a member and past chair of the membership committee of the Empire State Society of Association Executives..

JULIE BARELAS, Workforce and Professional Development Associate

Julie Barelas supports the administration of the Workforce & Professional Development programs at AAPA, which includes the PPA, PPM, and PPX programs. She provides administrative support to the governing body of these programs, the Professional Development Board (PDB). For four years, Ms. Barelas has been contributing her program management skills to AAPA's ACCELerate program, which is a U.S. Department of Labor grant, in partnership with the grant team. She has previously worked in various sectors such as government contracting, military, and education as a Project and Client Relations Manager. In 2023, she earned her MPM from IAMPE.

Julie enjoys traveling with her husband, family, and friends to places where she can explore and expand her skills in the performing/visual/culinary and gardening arts.  She also actively participates in 5K charity events.

Julie Barelas Headshot 2024

IMANI POINDEXTER, Senior Database Associate

Imani Poindexter is a seasoned IT professional specializing in databases with expertise in the iMIS database and data management. With almost 3 years of hands-on experience at AAPA, Imani excels in designing and implementing efficient database solutions that align with AAPA's business objectives. Known for effective communication and collaboration, Imani is dedicated to AAPA members and driving digital transformation at AAPA.

Imani Poindexter Headshot 2024

CHARISSA MEIKLE, Vice President of Finance and Administration

Charissa leads the finance team and is responsible for financial accounting, reporting, and benefits administration. She also serves as the primary liaison with EvolveHR, AAPA's human resources partner.

Charissa joins AAPA with a wealth of experience and expertise in financial management, cost accounting, forecasting, budgeting, P&L analysis, government contracting, regulatory compliance, and project management. Her background includes significant achievements during her tenure as Director of Finance at Lurn, Inc., and as Director of Revenue Operations, Human Resources, and Business Operations and Finance at ADF Solutions, Inc.

HOLDEN HALEY, Administrative Operations Assistant

Holden assists with the daily operations of the office. He joins the AAPA team from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation, where he served as executive assistant to the foundation president. Holden is a December 2022 graduate of George Washington University with a BA in International Affairs. While studying at GWU, Holden gained experience as an intern in the policy department of the Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA).