Founded in 1912 and recognized as the unified voice of seaports in the Americas, AAPA today represents more than 130 of the leading seaport authorities in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and the Caribbean and more than 250 sustaining and associate members, 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 2016 totaled 3.49 billion metric tons in volume and US$3.01 trillion in value. Of that total, ports in Central and South America handled 1.71 billion metric tons of cargo valued at US$941 billion, while North American ports handled 1.79 billion metric tons of goods, valued at US$2.07 trillion. To meet the growing demand for trade, the AAPA and its members are committed to keeping seaports navigable, secure and sustainable.
Biographies of AAPA Leadership
GARY NELSON,2019-20 Chairman of the Board
Joining the Port of Grays Harbor in April 2000, Gary G. Nelson brings a background of management in the private sector. Gary has experience in trading wood products throughout the Pacific Rim along with experience procuring, harvesting and marketing timber on the Pacific Coast. He has worked for large publicly held forest product companies as well as a small family-held sawmill. With strong forest product industry connections and networks in the international trade arena, Mr. Nelson works with customers, staff and the community to position the Port of Grays Harbor as a major hub for international trade and economic development.
Gary has been active in the development of the sustainable industry corridor in Grays Harbor by networking with local business owners to cooperatively address efficiency improvements within the community. He also worked to develop the Grays Harbor Jobs Team, an inter-local consortium of local agencies dedicated to providing the infrastructure to support family wage jobs and mutually set project priorities for economic development projects.
A native of Anacortes Washington, Gary attended University of Oregon, Willamette University (BA Environmental Science 80’) and College of Forest Resources, UW (MS Forest Economics and Finance 83’).
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 May 2018 on the Executive Committee and Board of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP).
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
JEAN C. GODWIN, General Counsel
Ms. Godwin is the number two executive and general counsel for AAPA with general operational and administrative responsibilities. Ms. Godwin is responsible for corporate records and provides staff assistance to the Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
Before joining AAPA in 1990 as Director of Government Relations, Ms. Godwin was the Director of Business Development for Export Network, Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to that, she served as Assistant Chief Counsel for Competition Policy for the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration, specializing in transportation and trade issues.
After graduating with honors from Georgetown University Law Center in 1981, she practiced law for six years with the firm of LaRoe, Winn, Moerman, and Donovan in Washington, D.C. Ms. Godwin also holds a B.A. in International Studies from Miami University of Ohio.
SUSAN MONTEVERDE, Vice President for Government Relations
Ms. Monteverde joined AAPA in 1999 to serve as the head of the Government Relations Department. She is responsible for planning, developing and conducting AAPA's legislative and regulatory affairs program in cooperation with AAPA President, AAPA Committees, the AAPA Legislative Policy Council, and the other government relations staff.
Prior to joining AAPA, Ms. Monteverde was Department Head for Environmental and Public Affairs for the American Chemical Society where she determined the strategic direction for the Society's government relation's program and managed part of its implementation. Ms. Monteverde also worked in the government affairs operation of the National Solid Waste Management Association and the Miller Brewing Company.
Ms. Monteverde holds a B.A. in Political Science from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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 lead 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.
EDWARD L. O'CONNELL, Director of Membership Services
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 PRSAPublic 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 and Maritime Economic Development committees.
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.
MEREDITH MARTINO, Vice President of Member Engagement
Ms. Martino is responsible for AAPA’s quarterly Seaports magazine and the Alert and Advisory e-Newsletters, as well as AAPA’s social media presence and the AAPA website. Prior to her current role, Ms. Martino served as AAPA's Director of Environmental Policy and Advocacy Outreach, handling policy issues such as ballast water, diesel emissions, and regional ocean planning.
Prior to joining AAPA, Ms. Martino was Manager of Government Relations for the Travel Industry Association of America, overseeing grassroots advocacy activities and lobbying on behalf of the U.S. travel and tourism industry on issues related to transportation and the environment.
Ms. Martino worked for U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), serving the Senator on natural resources, transportation and environmental issues, and the U.S. Senate Government Affairs Committee, monitoring issues of the Committee’s jurisdiction and drafting correspondence on behalf of then-Ranking Member John Glenn (D-OH).
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 External Affairs
Mary Beth Long is the Vice President of External Affairs at the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA). AAPA is the unified and collective voice of the seaport industry in the Americas and serves the needs of its diverse member seaports and industry partners within the Western Hemisphere. Ms. Long’s role as head of the External Affairs Department is to oversee the Association’s strategic goals of awareness and professional development.
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.
TOM HRANAC, Assistant Director of Membership Services and Latin American Facilitator
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, manages the association's Spanish publications and social media presence and serves 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.
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.)
JODI GIBSON, Manager of Training and Programs
A native of Canada, Jodi Gibson joined the Membership Services Department of AAPA in 2000. Currently, she is the Manager of Training and Programs.
Prior to joining AAPA, Ms. Gibson served as an Account Coordinator with Image Media Services, where she was responsible for the development of effective advertising plans and management of customer accounts. Her previous experience also includes working for the Wayne County Board of Education in North Carolina.
Before moving to the United States, Ms. Gibson owned and operated a retail store in Ontario, where she gained experience in purchasing and public relations.
Ms. Gibson holds a B.A. in English from the University of Western Ontario, and a Degree in Broadcasting and Communications from Fanshawe College.
ANDREW CAMERON, Communications and Professional Development Facilitator
Andrew Cameron joined AAPA in November 2017. He currently helps execute AAPA’s strategic messaging campaigns, supports the promotion and implementation of AAPA’s education and training programs, manages social media channels and assists in the facilitation of the Professional Port Manager (PPM®) and Industry Recognized Port Certificate (IRPC) Programs.
Prior to joining AAPA, Mr. Cameron was an account coordinator for Potomac Management Resources where he helped manage communication and event needs of association clients in Washington DC. Before working with PMR, he lived in Hong Kong where he provided outreach assistance for seafarers with the Mission to Seafarers.
Mr. Cameron holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from James Madison 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.
Alexis Brooks, Government Relations Facilitator
Alexis joined AAPA July 8, 2019. While her primary responsibilities are providing administrative support to the government relations team with a focus on Vice President of Government Relations, Susan Monteverde, she also assists with member questions about upcoming events. As her familiarity with the department continues to grow, we hope to expand her role into AAPA’s social media marketing and with member focused webinars.
Ms. Brooks’ professional background is in marketing, sales, and has proven results as an executive and administrative assistant. Most recently she’s worked in the underserved, underprivileged Kenilworth-Deanwood neighborhood in Northeast Washington, D.C. promoting healthy outcomes for the area’s youth at Elaine Ellis Center of Health, a not-for-profit healthcare organization.