Skip to content

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

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 recently completed a second term as the Chairman of the Florida Ports Council and serves multiple national leadership positions including AAPA, Vice-Chairman of the Coalition for America's Gateways and Trade Corridors (CAGTC), 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.

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.

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.

CARY DAVIS, incoming President and CEO

Cary is the incoming President and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities. He first joined AAPA in 2019 and currently heads Government Relations and also serves as General Counsel. 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

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.

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.

GRETA CASEY, Director of Membership and Sponsorship Sales

Greta Casey is responsible for lead development, nurturing and closing membership prospects, as well as sales of sponsorship packages. Greta comes to AAPA with solid sales and marketing experience as an account executive with The Gartner Group and most recently as a relationship manager with Booz Allen.

Greta is a native of Cincinnati and a graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

PAM MAHER, Manager of Communications and Publications 

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

Pam has in-depth experience in project management, SRM, creative use of new technologies, XML workflows, CMS, and managing the day-to-day operations of publishing and procurement processes to meet strategic objectives and key market requirements for print and digital products. 

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. Previously, she served as an account manager where she developed automation plans for CAD and publishing solutions.

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

Pam Maher

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.)

RAQUEL KIBRITDirector of Membership for Latin America

Raquel is responsible for the management of Latin American memberships and plays an essential role to ensure continued collaboration and partnership with the LATAM delegation. She has been the representative in Brazil since 2020.

Prior to joining AAPA, Raquel was head of International Affairs for Santos Port Authority, Brazil, the busiest port in Latin America. She holds an MBA in International Relations and lives in Santos with her husband and two children. She loves to travel, meet new people, and has been to over 30 countries on 4 continents.

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.

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.

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, Vice President 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

LIZ MANCINI, Senior Manager of Member Services

Ms. Mancini has over thirty years of diverse experience working in the association industry. Throughout her career, she 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 and educational member events.

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 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 chair of the Membership Committee of the Empire State Society of Association Executives.

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

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).