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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

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.

JEN WILK, Director of Corporate Communications and Marketing

Ms. Wilk’s role at AAPA is to provide strategic direction for proactive communications and marketing engagement to expand the voice of AAPA and its members. She also serves as staff liaison to the association’s Cruise and Public Relations Committees.

Ms. Wilk’s career includes twelve (12) years of experience working at the Passenger Vessel Association (PVA). While at PVA she directed public relations, communications, and development marketing.

Jen earned a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from American University in Washington, DC.

She serves as the President of the Propeller Club of Washington DC and is an active member of the Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA). Jen is also passionate about serving the community and volunteers as a member of the Board of Directors for Liberty’s Promise, a charitable foundation dedicated to supporting immigrant youth.

MAGGIE SOERGEL, Director of Conferences and Events

Maggie Soergel is an award-winning live program producer with a deep policy background and expertise transforming complex topics into impactful live experiences.

A Washington, DC native, Maggie was a broadcast television writer and producer before transitioning to The Hill's live events division, where she booked, produced, and executed policy-centric programs featuring top-level federal officials and legislators that focused on finding bipartisan solutions to some of the country's greatest public and private sector challenges.

Maggie then spent several years with the 501 (c)(3) affiliate of the United States Chamber of Commerce producing nationwide programming on the opioid epidemic with the goal of arming businesses of all sizes with the tools they needed to help their employees fight prescription misuse. During her tenure, she was a key part of the team awarded four 2020 Telly Awards for programming focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.

PAULA GONZALEZ, Senior Manager of Membership Growth

Before joining AAPA in December 2020, Ms. Gonzalez served the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) for 18 years, first as its international programs specialist, then as its global member relations coordinator, and soon thereafter as its global membership manager.

During her tenure at PMA, she helped exceed its membership recruitment and retention goals, attract federal grant funding to hold retail training programs for global supermarkets, successfully restructure the association’s membership dues strategy, establish its first international affiliate in Australia-New Zealand and attract record attendance to its international trade conferences.

Ms. Gonazlez earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and French and is fluent in Spanish and conversant in French.

PAM MAHER, Manager of Communications and Publications 

As the communications and publications manager for AAPA, Pam oversees the Advisory e-newsletter, AAPA’s Seaports Magazine, Smart Guide, Membership Directory, website, microsite and career center.

Pam has in-depth experience in offset and digital print processes, project management and SRM. 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 print buyer and production manager.

Prior to joining AAPA, Pam was part owner of a family-owned, marine-based business where she gained invaluable industry experience. After graduating from Penn State, Pam began a career path in communications and customer advocacy with a major airline.

Pam Maher

LIZ MANCINI, Manager of Member Experience

Elizabeth A. Mancini has over thirty years of diverse experience working in the association industry. Throughout her career, she has provided proven experience guiding executive and member teams, directing projects, executing effective internal and external communications plans, data analysis, administering CRM systems, and honing and using analytical and problem-solving skills.

Liz was most recently employed with Capitol Hill Management Services in Albany, NY, where she served as the Executive Director for the International Association of Special Investigation Units, Inc. (IASIU). Liz previously 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’s Degree 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 Chair of the Membership Committee of the Empire State Society of Association Executives.

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 offshore 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 Bachelor of Arts (Government) degree from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and a Master of Business Administration from The American University, (Washington, D.C.)

ALDO MARTINEZLatin American Associate

Aldo Martinez joined AAPA in February 2020. He is responsible for the management and follow up for Latin American memberships, communications to LATAM members and oversees the Advisory e-newsletter in Spanish. Mr. Martinez assists the Member Engagement Department and plays an essential role in the Latin American delegation delivering important assistance to join the association.

Prior to joining AAPA, Mr. Martinez was part of the logistics department at Bosch México, specifically in the warehouse, where he learned different methodologies and accessible ways to receive, maintain and ship materials from an automotive company.

Mr. Martinez earned his Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Universidad Tecnológica Del Valle de Toluca in Toluca, Mexico.

CARY DAVIS, Vice President of Government Relations and General Counsel

Cary heads Government Relations and serves as General Counsel for the American Association of Port Authorities. 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 also loves his family, golf, and his rescue pittbull, Maddie.

C.Davis

JENNIFER “JEN” ARMSTRONG, Director of Navigation Policy and Legislation

Jen oversees waterside infrastructure issues and relevant legislative and regulatory matters, including AAPA’s Quality Partnership Initiative (QPI) with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and serves as staff liaison to the Harbors and Navigation Committee. Jen comes to AAPA from one of the most influential positions in federal government in terms of port waterside funding – the U.S. Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. She also has extensive U.S. Army Corps of Engineers experience and brings leadership and momentum to AAPA in the areas of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, regulatory policies across National Marine Fisheries, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA and much more.

Jen served as the Republican Staff Director/Clerk of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which provides $53 billion in funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Energy, and several independent agencies. Jen’s expertise is the water portfolio, which includes the Corps’ Civil Works mission and water supply activities under the purview of the Bureau of Reclamation. Prior to her work on the subcommittee, Jen was with the Corps of Engineers as a water resources planner, project manager and government affairs liaison specializing in navigation, coastal storm damage reduction and ecosystem restoration.

Jen is a graduate of Old Dominion University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology. She lives in Virginia with her daughter and her partner.

Jen Armstrong

DEREK MILLER, Government Relations Manager

Derek Miller oversees port security and safety policy for AAPA - including issues related to the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He also takes an active role in infrastructure policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, 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 LLC, 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.

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.

STEPHANIE CASELLA, Manager of Strategic Advocacy Communications

Stephanie is a communicator, political strategist, and policy analyst, who has worked in the campaign, media, strategy, and government affairs spheres for well over a decade. At AAPA, Stephanie works to tell the stories of American seaports, advocate for policy on their behalf, and communicate that advocacy to stakeholders.

A veteran of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Stephanie has worked on a number of campaigns and for democratic organizations, such as SKDK, Organizing for America, and NextGen Climate Action. Throughout her work, she has helped CEOs of Fortune 100 companies to vitalize new ideas, advised leaders of organizations on media relations and public speaking, and successfully strategized to bring issues of importance into national and international presence.

Stephanie has a master's degree in Strategic Public Relations from The George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management, a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Writing from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Newark, and an associate degree in Humanities and Social Sciences from The County College of Morris.

A graduate of She Should Run and the Disney College Program, Stephanie has the honor of serving as Political Director of the New Jersey Young Democrats since early 2020 and as a member of the Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the United States, where she champions independent journalism.

MATT WIGGINS, Freight and Infrastructure Policy Associate

Matt is responsible for landside port policy, including cargo and freight infrastructure, port development and supply chain. Matt’s background is in trade associations, and he joins AAPA from the RV Industry Association where he served as a policy analyst focused on supply chain, EV policy and parks electrification.

SHANNON MCLEOD, Senior Director of Member Services

Shannon oversees the Professional Port Manager (PPM®) Certification and accreditation programs including the ACCELerate grant program. Her comprehensive experience spans two decades providing project management and technical direction on maritime, intermodal and supply chain initiatives.

Shannon received an MPA in Maritime, Ports and Logistics Management from Old Dominion University, is the chair of the Ports and Channels Standing Committee of the Transportation Research Board and is in the 2023 Alpha Class of the PPM program.

Shannon McLeod headshot

JULIE BARELAS, Workforce and Professional Development Associate

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

MARANDA JONES-ANDERSON, Senior Director of Finance and Administration & Treasurer

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 Bachelor 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 Master of Business 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.

KEONNA PROCTOR, Accounting Associate

Keonna assists with accounting tasks as well as administration functions of the office. Keonna has over 15 years of experience in Association accounting. Her cadre of skills has led to enhancing non-profit organizations in the areas of fiscal reporting on member dues, event management, CRM data reporting, and grants management. Keonna holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Westwood College.

Keonna Proctor