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Everyday Hero Profile: Jeff McKenney

Posted on Fri, Nov 20, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Jeff McKenney, Account Manager at Alaska Marine Lines in Seattle, Washington.

Everyday Hero Jeff McKenneyName: Jeff McKenney

Company: Alaska Marine Lines

Title: Account Manager

On the job since: 1988

Superpower: Using past experience to solve problems

Hometown: Oceanside, CA

Favorite Movie: Top Gun

Bucket List Destination: Seeing the U.S. via RV and a return trip to the Grand Canyon

For Fun: Boating, attending Seattle sports events, remodeling the house

How did you start your career at Alaska Marine Lines?
When I started my relationship with Lynden, I was a warehouseman and driver for a small freight company. That company unfortunately went out of business, so the saying, "when one door closes another one opens," was an opportunity for me to look forward. I decided to purchase my own truck and was successful in keeping Southeast Alaska Barge Lines Line (SEABL) as a customer. My hard work, dedication and relationship with the people I worked with at SEABL offered me a chance to continue the career I enjoyed. I also began working nights and weekends for SEABL doing all the different jobs that Alaska Marine Lines provides today. Earlier in my career, I had worked with Western Towboat as a deckhand on the tug during the winter months. For those of you who remember, SEABL only operated one barge every two weeks to the one port of Juneau. Working on the tug gave me the opportunity to learn another facet of the marine transportation business. I am grateful to this day.

A few years after starting my business, Lynden purchased SEABL and changed the name to Alaska Marine Lines. I was again successful and fortunate to retain Alaska Marine Lines as my customer. After 13 years of owning my business, I had an opportunity to take a full time position with Alaska Marine Lines to dispatch and manage the trucks and operators that were operating just as I once did. I held that position for four years when a sales position opened in Seattle. I thought it was the right time to advance my career and use the knowledge I had learned over the years to sell the services Alaska Marine Lines offered. After my interviews with Kevin Anderson and other management, Kevin called me and said, "I have some bad news and some good news." He said the bad news was the Seattle position was filled. He then said they had a sales position open in Juneau and that position was mine if I wanted to move to Juneau. That was a big decision I needed to discuss with my family. The family agreed that we would all move. I called Kevin with the decision. He stopped me before I could say anything more and said, "I have some bad news and some good news." At that moment, I could feel this heavy cloud come over me and wanted to turn and walk away. But I had to hear the final words and it started: "I've filled the Juneau sales position." That confirmed my worst nightmare. But then another door opened, when he said that the Seattle sales position was open and it was mine if I wanted it. I accepted the position and was able to continue to work with the people who were my friends and colleagues here and keep my family where we really wanted to be.

What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me is corresponding with customers, their affiliates, and with Lynden colleagues either in person, on the phone, or through email. As an account manager, my job is to look for freight opportunities including new and existing business. New business would involve customers you've never talked to and existing business would be current customers you already work with in the hopes of expanding that business.

Unfortunately, the world we knew has been changed by Covid-19. Prior to Covid, my job was to be in front of the customer and building relationships. Since Covid, I still have to be there for the customer using other means of communication, either through more telecommunications, email or by other social media tools.

One of your best assets for being in sales is your ability to listen and show compassion. A customer wants to know that you take their business seriously. Then offering options to best suit their needs while making it beneficial for Lynden.

That is where Alaska Marine Lines and all the Lynden companies have made my job so much more fun. Our abilities to be innovative through equipment design, schedules, and online tools offers so much to the customer compared to our competition. The fact that we can pull multiple Lynden operating companies together to offer the customer a One Lynden solution has a lot of merit.

What has been most challenging in your career?
I've been fortunate to have worked in both operations and in sales. They are very different but having the operations background has definitely been a positive in my sales career. Operations is black and white. Meaning you make decisions, right or wrong, and learn from the mistakes. Sales has always been more of a gray area. You still learn from your mistakes but there is always the unknown and uncertainty of whether or not you've secured the business. You work at creating and maintaining relationships and try to educate your customers on the features and benefits that Lynden provides. But once they finally sign on the dotted line or begin moving that first shipment with you, then you feel successful of your achievements and proud of all the hard work you've put forth. Now, your focus is to keep that business and hopefully ship a second and a third and continue to build the business you've created.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Being able to share my life and experiences with the people at Lynden and their affiliates who I've been associated with over the years. Many of these people have already retired and I look forward to joining them in the next chapter of my life. My customers have become my friends and I look forward to continuing those friendships.

I'm proud of the challenges I've had to overcome and, more importantly, proud of the people around me who have helped me along the way. I've grown through adversity and hard work. I've enjoyed good times and suffered through some hard times but have learned through the process to become better. Lynden has been a great company to be part of. I'm very fortunate to be a part of this family and have appreciated all that they have done to support me and my wife and kids.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
My two brothers were 9 and 10 years older than I was. My parents always told me I was the planned one! My dad was a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corp at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA and retired after 22 years. After his retirement, we moved to Lincoln, NB when I was 3, then moved to Salem, OR for two years and then moved up to Washington. I have lived here ever since in various cities around the greater Seattle area.

When I was 6 or 7 years old, my parents bought me a Tumbler Pigeon from the Oregon State Fair. Raising the pigeon taught me a lot of responsibility just like owning any pet would. Remember the part my dad was a "gunny" in the Marine Corp? He made sure I did my duty!

So I took care of that bird from the time I lived in Salem, OR until we moved to Washington. Then in middle school, I got into pigeons again. I started with the fancy varieties like the Tumblers, Fan Tails and Helmut pigeons. I began breeding the birds and selling them to pet stores. I later changed my focus from fancy pigeons to homing pigeons and got into racing them in between high school sports of baseball, football and wrestling.

I met my wife Lisa 41 years ago, and we've been married for 38 years. We met at an under 21 dance club on Mercer Island called "Tonight's the Night." I remember her standing next to the wall on the outskirts of the dance floor talking to her friends. She had very short hair that was styled in this asymmetrical fashion which was different from all the other girls. I went up and asked her to dance. I put my best John Travolta moves forward and we really hit it off, or so I thought. When I asked her for her number, she said "No, I don't give out my number," but then she said she would take my number. I thought it would be the last I would hear from her. To my surprise, I was fortunate to get a call from her early the next day, and we made plans to go to the Woodland Park Zoo.

She has been my best friend ever since. She is my rock and my soul mate and one of the smartest women I know. I've been so lucky to have this lady in my life for this long.

We have two daughters; Ashlee, 32, and Briana, 28. I am so proud of these girls. They have been a joy. I only had brothers so having girls was a new experience each and every day. As young girls they're always looking up to you for guidance. You do what you can to protect them from the world, but you have to eventually let them find their own way. They are both intelligent, strong and independent women that also very patient and caring. Definitely their mother's qualities.

What was your first job?
My very first job was a paper route as a young kid. It was waking up early every morning to stuff papers with leaflets, then fold and roll them to apply a rubber band. Then place them in an organized fashion inside your bag so when you rode your bike past the house, you could easily grab them from your bag to toss them toward the front door. Yes, some did end up in the bushes early in the route till you got your rhythm.

My first job as an adult was working in a Pet Store in Bellevue, WA. We always had dogs growing up and whatever reptiles I could catch. Also the pigeons that I had in my life kind of set me up for working at a pet store. Taking care of weird and exotic animals was right up my alley and one of the most fun jobs I ever had.

What would surprise most people about you?
After graduating from high school in 1977, I worked at the "Hat and Boots" fuel station located on East Marginal Way and Corson Avenue in Seattle. The big cowboy hat was the office and the pair of boots was the restrooms. It became a historical site and they eventually moved both structures to some other location to preserve its history. It was there that I really began my transportation career. As the fuel attendant I created relationships with the drivers who came in to have their trucks and cars fueled. Yes, back then the attendant did the fueling. Because of those relationships, I was then able to find a position with an air freight company. I would drive large van trucks called Hoopie trucks all day to pick up and deliver freight and then go back to the warehouse to load containers called LD3 and M1. These containers would be delivered on tractor/flatbed combinations to the airport to be placed on planes and positioned around the Lower 48. This career is what led me to Lynden.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
My parents always had boats and I grew up boating with them year-round in the San Juans and Gulf Islands. Back then, the Islands were a lot less inhabited. I continued that with my wife and kids throughout their childhood on 24' – 35' boats of various types.

I used to take family and friends out for day trips or for weekends and vacations up to the islands to fish and hike. That was always my passion. Now, I enjoy remodeling and building around my house. The first home I purchased was in Bellevue, WA. We lived there 15 years and had both our girls in that home. We bought our second home 22 years ago and we still live there. I love fishing and I have done some bird hunting. I am a big Seattle sports fan and enjoy going to sports events. Now it is taking my RV and traveling around to new sites. I have a 12' aluminum boat to satisfy my need for the water. If I could talk my wife into it, I wouldn't mind getting another boat and maybe living aboard. I also love to cook, and I love to eat even more.

What do you like best about your job?
I love the challenge. I like being able to provide the customer with a positive experience, show customers what Lynden can do and being part of Lynden's success.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero Profile: Kendra McPhail

Posted on Thu, Oct 22, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Kendra McPhail, Customer Service Representative at Lynden Air Cargo in Anchorage, Alaska.

Everyday Hero Kendra McPhailName: Kendra McPhail

Company: Lynden Air Cargo

Title: Customer Service Representative

On the job since: 2018

Superpower: Positive force for change

Hometown: Palmer, Alaska

Favorite Movie: The Great Debaters

Bucket List Destination: Maldives

For Fun: Travel in state and outside the country, study the bible, and spend time with family and loved ones.

How did you start your career with Lynden?
I graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 2017. I have a degree in political science, although I do not want to go into politics! After college, I thought I had a plan in place to further my education at another school in a master's program, but life doesn't always pan out the way you thought it would, so I came back home to Alaska. I applied for jobs, but they usually told me I was over-qualified or it wasn't the right fit. We had a family friend who works for the railroad and he does business with Lynden International. He told me Lynden was hiring. I applied on a Sunday, got a call on a Tuesday, had an interview later that week and started the following Monday in customer service. That was where I met Carly (Fielding) and Adam (Murray). I am a firm believer in being 15 to 20 minutes early so I showed up early for my interview. I think that made a good impression.

Tell us about your job.
It's a very interesting job assisting customers every day. There are so many things that come through our door – we transport dogs, goats and horses. It's hunting season, so we have backhauls from the villages like St. Mary's. People hunt there and send the meat back to their families in Anchorage or Fairbanks. We keep the meat chilled or frozen for them.

From the time I started to now, a lot has changed. We have revamped our backhaul processes to make the system more accurate, accountable and streamlined. The changes will go a long way toward providing better service to our customers and creating efficiencies within our operation. I created a list of procedures for the backhaul process that is allowing everyone to get a better handle on it.

What is your favorite or most rewarding part of your job?
Taking on new challenges and a feeling of being able to meet that challenge to a certain degree of satisfaction. I like to not just meet challenges, but exceed challenges. I like a little competition. You are giving me a task? Don't worry. I can handle it.

I've also had the privilege of attending trade shows representing Lynden Air Cargo. We just went to one at the University of Alaska Anchorage at the student athletic center for the Native Youth Olympics. We gave out swag and told them about our services and where we fly. I also did another trade show at the Sheraton in Anchorage with other employees from Lynden companies. And I will be attending a conference on diversity with colleague Emily Taylor.

What is a typical day like?
I work 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. No day is ever the same. When I come in the door I never know what I am walking into. I like that because it keeps it interesting. I also get to interact with different operations people like the warehouse crew. When I clock in at 11, I channel what everyone is doing or where they need support. After catching up on emails, I go around and ask if there is anything that needs to be done, whether that's a flight that needs to be closed, filing, answering emails, meeting with accounting to find missing paperwork, maybe a signature is missing somewhere. Most days of the week we have almost 24-hour coverage so my coworkers work staggered shifts with me.

What has been most challenging?
In customer service, people can be tough. You will always encounter people that won't be the most pleasant. I try to let it roll off and rise to the next level. You cannot take everything personally. I've had to learn that in my role here. My tactic is to kill them with kindness and roll with the punches.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I was born in Palmer and attended Pioneer Peak Elementary and Colony Middle and High Schools. I graduated in 2013. I have a younger brother who is 19 and in college and an older sister who is 27 and working in Washington, DC. My parents still live in Palmer. Both of my parents are educators. My dad was the director of education and instruction for the district and moved on to be a principal at a school called Pace which offers an alternate educational experience for the children in the Mat-Su Borough School District. My mom is in her 21st year of teaching and is working on her PhD.

When I was in middle and high school I was a member of the track team. I ran the 400, 200 and 4x1 and 4x4 relays. In middle school I did hurdles, but not in high school. I fell a few times and decided that was it! I also participated in cross country skiing and cross country running in high school. So I ran cross country in the fall, skied in the winter and did track and field in the spring.

Besides sports, I was on the student advisory board for the curriculum counsel, so I met with the instruction department and teachers and went over the curriculum for the entire school district. I was also the student representative for the school board and attended those meetings to update them on what was happening at our high school.

What would surprise most people about you?
When I was growing up, my mom would always tell people, 'be careful, she likes to talk.' Now she is saying that my gift of gab is being used to my advantage in my job as a customer service representative.

I like to recite poetry. I took poetry classes in high school and competed in a competition called Poetry Out Loud. You memorize poems and perform them in front of judges. I recited Maya Angelous' Phenomenal Woman. I went to districts and also participated in speech competitions when I was in elementary school.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I like to be outside walking in the mountains being adventurous. I'm an adrenaline junkie. I go zip lining, go to see waterfalls and try to spend my time doing exciting things. I believe that life is short and tomorrow's not promised. I live my life to the fullest and do the things that I love. I attend New Hope Baptist Church in Anchorage and am heavily involved in choir and other activities. I also play softball in a league representing Lynden. I like to hang out with friends, go out to eat, spend time at church, listen to poetry and recite poetry. I recited a poem in January at a Martin Luther King Jr event in Anchorage.

What are your thoughts about working for Lynden Air Cargo?
I have been afforded many opportunities to grow and elevate myself by going to different trade shows and I'm finding out things that I didn't know that I really enjoy doing. I've been able to dig into the sales and marketing side of things and talk with managers about certain ideas I have to make improvements and differentiate Lynden from other companies. I really enjoy the logistics side of the business. My goal is to earn a master's degree while still at Lynden and apply those benefits to my current job. I also had an opportunity to go to fishing with co-workers and meet some of the customers I work with. I caught a lot of fish and had a chance to engage with our customers in an informal setting. Getting to know them on a personal level helped me ask questions like 'what do you think about our service and what can we do better?' It was something completely new for me and a great way to interact with the customers we serve.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero Profile: Aaron Delahoussaye

Posted on Fri, Sep 18, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Aaron Delahoussaye, Driver at Lynden Oilfield Services in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Name: Aaron DelahoussayeEveryday Hero Aaron Delahoussaye

Company: Lynden Oilfield Services

Title: Driver

On the job since: 1996

Superpower: Getting it done

Hometown: Palmer, AK

Favorite movie: Original Star Wars

Bucket list destination: Europe

For fun: Traveling with my wife

How did you start your career at Lynden?
I started my career at 22 as a warehouseman at Lynden Transport in Anchorage. I worked on the dock as I worked toward earning my Commercial Driver's License (CDL). I transferred to Prudhoe Bay in 2012 and was part of the transition to Lynden Oilfield Services (LOIL) in 2015. I am now a driver and haul everything from bulk chemicals to oversized freight on any given day.

What is a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day in Prudhoe Bay – every day is different. Everyone up here can pretty much do everything. That's what I like about it. You don't get stuck in the same routine. My co-workers have nicknamed me the horse as in "work horse."

I was part of the Doyon drill rig move of 'the beast' from Canada to Alaska and have hauled a lot of drill rig components over the years.

What has been most challenging in your career?
The most challenging is probably being away from home and family for two weeks or more at a time. You miss out on a few things along the way. Although we have a regular two-week-on, two-week-off schedule, I've been away as long as six weeks for special projects.

Weather is also a challenge. Winters bring visibility issues, freezing temps and wind that suddenly comes out of nowhere. We have our winter gear to protect against frostbite and below-freezing temperatures, but it can be tough at times. One specific story that comes to mind is when we first started running the PistenBullys. We had one operator at LOIL and the other was a contracted operator that helped us with our first three trips to Barrow, AK. The contractor left the Slope because we thought our season was over when we got a call for two more loads. I was very new to operating the machines, but I followed the other driver on a 530-mile roundtrip across the Arctic Slope from Deadhorse to Atqasuk to Barrow and back to Deadhorse. We were on the trail for four days and made record time without any issues.

What do you like best about your job?
I love the challenges. From the freight to the conditions to the time schedules, every day is different. I'm always learning. Up here you get to be the teacher and the student every single day.

The animals we see around Prudhoe Bay also make the job unique. Since we are up on the coast at the very top of Alaska, we have had polar bears, grizzly bears, caribou and other wildlife come into the yard looking for food. Swans and geese come up in the summer to have their babies on the lake, then migrate south for the winter.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I'm most proud of my longevity with the company. To be able to say you've spent almost your entire working career with one company says something about you and the company.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I've been married to my beautiful wife Tomara for 22 years. She works for Alaska Airlines as a Flight Attendant. We have two awesome kids, son Kaden and daughter Hannah. They are off to a great start with their careers. So we just became empty nesters and are still trying to figure out what to do with ourselves with no kids in the house. I guess we can do whatever we want!

What was your first job?
My first job was with my grandpa. He owned a log cabin business. We would fly out to these remote locations and build cabins for customers with the challenges of no electricity, getting the building materials to the job sites and dealing with wild animals from time to time.

What would surprise most people about you?
I don't know if this is surprising, but I'm now in my 40s, and I've never broken a bone.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
A. We moved from Alaska to Las Vegas three years ago to be closer to family. Lately I've been working on our backyard, landscaping and hanging out by the pool. We're looking to get an RV and travel around the states. When we still lived in Alaska, I spent time snowmachining, hunting, fishing and skiing at Alyeska.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero Profile: Becky MacDonald

Posted on Wed, Aug 19, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Becky MacDonald, Logistics Manager at Lynden Logistics in Seattle, Washington.

Everyday Hero Becky MacDonaldName: Becky MacDonald

Company: Lynden Logistics

Title: Logistics Manager for oil refineries

On the job since: 1985

Superpower: Grace under pressure

Hometown: Vashon Island, WA

Favorite Movie: Remember the Titans

Bucket List Destination: Iceland

For Fun: Baking, travel, beadwork

How did you start your career at Lynden?
In 1985, I was working at Foss Alaska Lines in the rates dept. When Foss sold their assets to Lynden, I came to Alaska Marine Lines with the move. I worked at Alaska Marine Lines for 25 years starting in rates and billing, then moved into several positions, which included Pricing Manager, Customer Service Manager and Intermodal Services. In 2010, I moved to Lynden Logistics and now handle the transportation for five refineries operated by Marathon (formerly Tesoro) and Par Hawaii, along with capital and retail projects for Marathon as they come up for bid.

What is a typical day like for you?
Every day is different, which I really like. I handle every step of a shipment from quoting and pricing shipments to set up, dispatch, tracking, delivery and invoicing. It can be a 10-pound box or a 150,000-pound heat exchanger and anything in between.

What has been most challenging in your career?
Managing three projects at the same time. I work best under pressure and this kept me hopping!

What do you like best about your job?
My customers. I have built great relationships and enjoy working with them.
I've also had the pleasure of working with several Lynden companies on shipments. My shipments may be routed via air, ocean, truck or charter, so it's great to have the knowledge and capability of Lynden employees to work with. Everyone is always willing to help with a One Lynden attitude.

Lynden has been such a great company to work for. After 35 years, I still love my job.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Developing the Intermodal Department at Alaska Marine Lines. It started in 1989 with a customer asking if we could ship a 40-foot container of materials from North Carolina to Wrangell without transload. I worked with Pat Stocklin at Lynden Transport who taught me the process. From then on, Alaska Marine Lines offered the service to household good companies, retail and construction businesses, and it grew from there. We were able to partner with a third-party rail company and move their 53-foot containers through to Alaska which opened the door to more business. Our customers appreciate the door-to-door service. At Alaska Marine Lines, I was taught you don't say no. You say 'I'll look into it and get back to you.'

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I grew up on Vashon Island, WA on the beach. We had to walk down a long trail to our house, or drive in on the beach if we had a lot of stuff to unload. My dad was a 6th grade teacher and we moved to Vashon when I was three years old. I have two older brothers and one younger brother whom I adore. They and their families all live on Vashon, and we are very close. Our parents taught us to work hard, be honest and kind.

Our playground was the beach and the woods. We heated our house with wood so I learned how to chop and stack wood at an early age. We caught fish, crab, octopus and geoduck off our beach, and mom did an amazing job cooking all of it.

1914 Bristol Bay boatGrowing up, we had a 30-foot Bristol Bay boat that was built in 1914 (right). From the time I was 10 until age 17, we spent our summers cruising the Canadian Islands living off the land. I spent many days in the spring working with my dad to get the boat ready for our trip.

We left home two days after school was out and came home three days before school started. Our dogs and cats came with us. My parents continued those trips after us kids grew up.

In high school I played basketball and participated in track as well as managing the boy's varsity baseball team. In my 20s I played softball, basketball and volleyball – and continued playing into my 30s, then began managing and coaching my kids' sports. I was a pitcher, catcher and played third base on three different softball teams.

My daughter Kelly is now 29 and works for Alaska Marine Lines as an account manager in Juneau.

What was your first job?
When I was 18, I went to work for Crowley Maritime as a cook on the tugs. I was one of two women working on the boats at that time. My first outside trip was for four months escorting oil tankers in and out of Valdez, AK. I made several trips to and from Hawaii and Whittier. I asked several times to be sent to Prudhoe Bay on Crowley's annual sea lift but was told it was too long of a trip for a girl. How times have changed!

What would surprise most people about you?
Becky MacDonald with quadI live in a converted barn on 24 acres on Vashon Island. I call it the 
"barndominium!"

How do you spend your time outside of work?
Love to bake – my specialty is cookies, but I enjoy all baking and cooking. I like gardening, walking, spending time with family, fishing, riding my Polaris Ranger (right) on the property and watching sports. Go Hawks!

I also chair a foundation with Kelly in memory of my son Andy who passed away in 2006. He was training to be a firefighter. We provide scholarships to cadets that are enrolled in the Highline School District's vocational high school firefighting program that Andy attended. They use the funds to continue their education in Fire Services. Several cadets have attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks Firefighting program, and are now full-time firefighters. We also provide donations to Andy's high school to purchase training equipment, and donate to other organizations as well. To date, we have raised over $100,000.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero Profile: Fred Austin

Posted on Mon, Jul 20, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Fred Austin, an icon at Lynden Transport in Alaska.

Everyday Hero Fred AustinName: Fred Austin

Company: Lynden Transport

Titles: Driver, Trainer and Instructor

On the job since: 1975

Superpower: Mentoring

Hometown: Gig Harbor, WA

Favorite Movie: South Pacific

Bucket List Destination: Antarctica

For Fun: Spending quiet time with his bride after raising 34 foster kids

Icon of the Alcan
"To really understand Fred Austin, talk to the drivers, dispatchers and our friends on the road system," says Lynden Chairman Jim Jansen. "They share my description of this 'Icon of the Alcan' – a kind and thoughtful gentleman, loved by us all, who has professionally served Lynden and its customers, safely and efficiently, for over 40 years. Hopefully Fred will continue as a Lynden Everyday Hero for many more."

If you don't know Fred Austin, you have probably heard of him. His trademark red bandana, his ability to spin a humorous story and those twinkling blue eyes make the 85-year-old professional driver a legend on on the road.

Fred came to work for Lynden in 1975 at the start of pipeline construction in Fairbanks. He wanted to own a truck to operate for Lynden but could not afford one. "We sold him tractor 118 real cheap, the lemon of the fleet, which did him no favors," Jim remembers. Fred kept the 1969 Peterbilt operating reliably in spite of its reputation.

Fred's love of machines with big engines began early. "I started young, about 10 years old, running a small John Deere dozer on my dad's farm," he says. At 18, he started learning to drive truck – hauling logs in a 1942 GMC GI in the mountains near Mt. Rainier. "I got in on the last of the big gas engines – 200 horse – on the logging roads, getting about 3 miles a gallon on the highway." Operating heavy equipment and driving trucks was the perfect job for Fred who says "I was always looking for larger and louder equipment and more smoke. As the guys I work with tell me, the call of the throttle got me."

In 1957, Fred joined the U.S. Navy and continued his driving career for Uncle Sam. "I was licensed to drive everything on wheels during my four years," he remembers. After his military career, it was back to the big machines. "My base for instructing at Lynden is my experience operating heavy equipment and driving log trucks," he explains.

In the mid-70s, Fred switched to lowboy trailers and LTL hauls for Lynden Transport. At this time, Fred and his wife Margery were busy raising six children plus four foster children. "The kids were mostly teenagers and they were eating a big pile of groceries," he says. "I took some side jobs as an owner-operator to keep the groceries coming during a bit of a slowdown at Lynden, but always stayed in contact with line dispatch. When work picked up at Lynden, I was under the green flag again."

During the pipeline construction many competing companies tried to lure Lynden drivers away with promises of higher salaries. "I always thought long-term and stayed with Lynden, and my decision proved correct. And here I am today!"

In addition to driving, Fred dispatched several years ago, and now serves as driver trainer and mentor while continuing to operate between Fairbanks and Beaver Creek, earning the respect of new drivers and veterans. In 2015, at age 79, he took the state test for Methods of Instruction Training and passed. He is the oldest person to sit for the test and continues to inspire and entertain students and instructors at the Lynden Training Center in Fairbanks.

Fred's stories were hard-earned while driving for Lynden. Retired Lynden Transport President Jim Beck remembers Fred's first trip from Beaver Creek. "The drive line in his tractor broke. He camped next to the truck for several days and made a new drive line out of a tree limb to complete the trip to Fairbanks," he says. "Fred is one of the finest drivers and gentleman you could ever meet."

Fairbanks Service Center Manager Darren Stansbury concurs. "Fred is an asset to the company and a true leader. No matter the situation Fred has a can-do attitude."

Fred feels it is his duty to pass on his knowledge and experience. "If I drive another million miles it will make no difference in this world, but if I can train someone to do the right thing and not get hurt, then I can make a difference in their life and the life of their family," he says.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero Profile:  Kenneth 'Took' Laraux

Posted on Wed, Jun 17, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Took Laraux, Captain at Bering Marine in Bethel, Alaska.

Everyday Hero Kenneth Took LaRauxName: Kenneth 'Took' Laraux

Company: Bering Marine Corporation

Title: Captain

On the job since: 1997

Superpower: Reading the river

Hometown: Bethel, AK

Bucket List Destination: Anywhere where there are more animals than people

For Fun: Fishing and hunting

How did you start your career at Lynden?
My dad, Butch, owned United Transportation with some partners and delivered fuel and freight on the Kuskokwim River. In the mid-1980s Crowley bought the company. I ran my own barge for awhile, the Elsie-M. It is a 66-foot landing craft that my son Gux now owns. I started working for Bering Marine in 1997. I have worked for Bering Marine, the hovercraft operation, Knik, Alaska Marine Lines, Alaska Marine Trucking and other companies along the Kuskokwim River in Alaska and other places. My son, Gux, works for Bering Marine, too. He is in charge of the hovercraft operation.

What is a typical day like for you?
I go pretty much nonstop with the tug and barge from April to late October. In the winter season I help my son with the hovercraft. There are so many different things happening in the Kuskokwim area that I may be working on projects for Knik or other companies week to week. I am not just the captain on the Arctic Gull tug but am also the engineer and deckhand depending on what is needed at the time. I can operate cranes or other kinds of equipment if help is needed loading barges.

What has been most challenging in your career?
Weather and keeping equipment running. Also staying on time with marine schedules and dealing with tides, wind and the water level on the river.

What changes have you seen over the years, either in business, equipment, customers or technology?Better equipment that makes it less likely to break down or need as much maintenance.

What project are you most proud of?
I have been told that I have hauled more aggregate (rock) down the Kuskokwim River to Bethel and other Knik job locations than any other vessel captain. I am pretty good at navigating uncharted water on the river. I can repair equipment if needed and get it back up and running so there is no lost time at a job site. I try to think of the most efficient way of getting a job done. I like to get the assignment, talk about options and then get it done ahead of schedule.

Can you tell us about your growing up years?
I was born in Bethel. I have five brothers and sisters. My wife and I have three sons and two daughters. I did some commercial fishing on the Kuskokwim and Yukon Rivers starting in the 1970s and also some trapping over the years.

What would surprise most people about you?
I got my nickname of 'Took' by riding on tugboats with my father. The motor made a 'took, took' sound and I would make that sound as a little boy. It stuck and now I am known more by Took than my given name of Kenneth.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I fish for salmon and hunt for moose and caribou. Every winter I go into the woods and cut firewood to give to elders in the community of Bethel and surrounding villages on the coast. I also hunt for them so they have food during the winter months, usually caribou. I have a lot of snow machines and sometimes make sleds to tow behind them. Spend some time woodworking, too.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero profile: Karter Koelsch

Posted on Tue, May 19, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Karter Koelsch, Freight Operations Lead at Alaska Marine Trucking in Juneau, Alaska.

Everyday Hero Karter KoelschName: Karter Koelsch

Company: Alaska Marine Trucking

Title: Freight Operations Lead

On the job since: 1998

Superpower: Organization

Hometown: Juneau, AK

Favorite Movie: Serenity: Firefly

Bucket List Destination: Galapagos Islands

For Fun: Date nights, hiking with my kids, playing on league softball and volleyball teams

How did you start your career at Lynden?
My dad knew Don Reid when he was the Port Manager at Arrowhead Transfer. Don called my dad and told him they needed part-time summer help, so starting in 1992, I was a swamper for the summer and then spent Sundays during the winter unloading Lynden trailers with Brian Lopez.

After that I went to the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, earned my AA and then attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins. In 1996 I came back to Juneau and started working in the Alaska Marine Lines warehouse while I took classes.

I moved up to checker and then started driving box trucks and making deliveries. In 2001, after about 3 years of driving, they promoted me to the yard to load and unload barges, help customers and manage the daily work there.

What is a typical day like for you?
No day is typical. Our days depend on when the barges arrive. I'll check the barge schedules to see the estimated time of arrival. I wake up Sunday morning and look at the ETA. From Petersburg to Juneau is 12 hours so I have that much notice to get the yard set up for the barge – making sure the manpower is where it needs to be, setting it up so the trucks and customers can get in. We are the first ones in when the barges arrives and the last ones out, sending it on its way.

We also need to know what is coming up on the barge from Seattle. You want to get the barge in and out as quickly as possible so the crew doesn't miss a tide to get to the next port. We have containers that come off, but also flats of palletized freight that need to go into the warehouse for our warehouse crew to break down and deliver.

When the first northbound barge comes in, it takes six hours to get it unloaded and reloaded. Then it goes up to Haines, Skagway and Kensington. We have to clear the yard and set it back up with our southbound freight and empty containers we are sending back down to Seattle, making sure we leave enough room for the other ports. In between the barges arriving, we all head home for some sleep. It's not a 24-hour schedule but the hours can definitely vary depending on weather delays and other factors. Sunday to Wednesday is the busy time and Thursday and Friday are our recovery days where we prepare for the next week.

What has been most challenging in your career?
Weather. Wind is a big issue in Juneau. We have the Taku winds named after the Taku Inlet. We can sometimes get 100 mph gusts. It's tough to work in that kind of environment. We have to make sure everything is secure. One day we had to shut down which was the right call. We wear protective gear to protect us against rain and snow but it still gets pretty cold up here. Sometimes customers don't understand that we are dealing with weather and many other issues to get the barges up to Juneau. They have high delivery expectations and usually we meet those expectations, but we are also at the mercy of things out of our control. Right now we are the best friends of everyone in Southeast because we have continued to deliver toilet paper, masks and other essentials they need during the COVID crisis!

What are you most proud of in your career?
Every year our family goes to Hawaii and when I return to work some customers tell me they are glad I'm back. That always makes me feel good that I have regulars who like to deal with me. The most rewarding thing I have done is training some of our employees to operate a forklift or earn a Class A CDL. I really enjoy being a mentor.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I grew up in Juneau with my parents Ken and Marian and a younger sister Amber. My parents still live in Juneau and they have been helping us with online school and childcare during the COVID changes. My wife Deborah is a nurse and she is working from home so my parents have been taking our three kids and helping with classwork. Our three kids are Kaylee, 12, Fiona, 9 and Kendell, 5.

My dad taught high school English and American Government and also directed n musicals and the school newspaper. He was very popular with his students. You can't go anywhere in Juneau without someone knowing him. Three or four nights a week we would have kids at our house for extra help with schoolwork.

I grew up swimming and playing soccer, basketball and baseball. In high school I lettered and competed at state all four years in cross country, swimming, track, student government, and high school spring musicals. I also played competitive soccer in the summer leagues.

Both my parents grew up on farms in Michigan so we would go back and visit family there. When I was 4, my Dad did a teacher exchange in Australia. We stayed in Melbourne for a year. We all went back in 1987 to travel around and reconnect with people there. The U.S. had lost the American's Cup for the first time, so we went down and watched Dennis Connor get that back in Perth. We rented a van and went all over the country.

I live on Douglas Island so I cross a bridge to get to Juneau for work. Our house has 8-foot windows and a view. Those 8-foot windows really start to vibrate when we get the high winds.

What was your first job?
I mowed lawns for two neighbors. They each paid me in a six pack of coke and a case of beer for my Dad. That went on for a couple of summers until I rebelled. My first paying job was working in a tourist arts and craft gift shop called Annie Kaill in Juneau. I was the box boy. The coolest perk was the jelly beans. I was always eating them.

What would surprise most people about you?
I have visited almost 50 countries in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

I've had a bunch of sports injuries and broken bones, but once a doctor had to break a bone for me. I was skateboarding in Australia. I went down a hill too fast, bailed and landed on my wrist. The bone was bent, but not broken, so the docs numbed me up, held my arm and broke it for me. They had to make sure it would heal straight. That was in 7th grade.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I like gardening, landscaping and working with wood. I also play poker with a bunch of buddies. We play for money but the most I've ever won is $100. I also play league softball on a men's team and on a co-ed volleyball team.

What do you like best about your job?
The sense of accomplishment. Even though you are pretty worn out after, it's a good feeling to put all the pieces in the right place to receive a barge and then set others up to carry on after it leaves your port. We all pull together to deal with adversity, like plowing the yard out after a big snow, or an unexpected summer shuttle barge. I also enjoy our tie with Alaskan Brewery and the other breweries up here. We ship everything from bottles to kegs both northbound and southbound. This winter we supported a tram project in Hoonah through Channel Construction barges. It's always something new at Alaska Marine Trucking, and we are a key component in everyone else's success.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero profile: Matthew Malmkar

Posted on Mon, Apr 20, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Matthew Malmkar, Dispatcher at Brown Line in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

Everyday Hero Matthew MalmkarName: Matthew Malmkar

Company: Brown Line

Title: Dispatcher

On the job since: 2016

Superpower: Seeing the big picture

Hometown: Grant, Nebraska

Favorite Movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Bucket List Destination: The island of Madagascar

For Fun: Travel, following politics and finance, and playing poker at casinos

How did you start your career at Lynden?
After leaving the Navy in 2014, I earned my CDL and was looking for a new career. My brother Michael was a Brown Line driver for many years, and I started driving with him as a team in 2016. We drove together for four months and then a family medical situation required him to move back to Nebraska so he left the company. Together, we drove to Los Angeles, Houston and Alaska a few times for Brown Line. I kept driving locally and was then promoted to dispatch at the end of last year.

What is a typical day like for you?
I live 45 minutes away in Oak Harbor, WA, so I have a commute to work in Mount Vernon, but I don't mind because I am very proud of my waterfront property. My back yard is a state park with beautiful views of the water. I picked a job to be close to where I live.

My typical day varies. We are going through a big change to implement new software for our operating system so my hours are flexible these days. I often arrive about 10 a.m. and work until 8 p.m. I have sometimes needed to stay until 2 a.m. to take care of changes. It's a big hurdle for everyone here, so we are all pulling together.

What has been most challenging in your career?
In dispatch, we sometimes deal with urgent issues the minute we sit down to start the day. Dispatchers are often in the eye of the storm. It's always helpful to see things from the other person's perspective (driver or customer) and where they are coming from. It takes a whole team to do the work we do every day.

What is your military background?
I served in the United States Navy from 1993 to 2014. During that time I was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and flew off an aircraft carrier in S3B Vikings aircraft. I started in the military as an enlisted and retired as an officer. I earned my pilot's license while in the military.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I received the Driver of the Month and Driver of the Year Awards for Brown Line and am very proud of that. I also have been asked to train other employees, which is a privilege. Brown Line management promoted me from driver to dispatcher last year. It was, and still is, my plan to move up the ladder and into operations here.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I was born in a small town in Nebraska. I am the oldest of three. I have a younger brother and sister and my parents live with me in Oak Harbor. I'm single with a 23-year old daughter. She just finished college at Western Washington University in Bellingham and still lives there.

What was your first job?
I refueled planes at a dirt airstrip in Nebraska. I have always been interested in aviation.

What would surprise most people about you?
I am pretty good at poker and have made a lot of money playing in casinos. I just returned from a trip to New Zealand and Australia. In my 20-year military career I have flown over a lot of countries and was stationed in Japan for six months. One place I haven't visited is South America. I would love to see Argentina and Brazil.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I like to play games. I have played a lot of poker at casinos over the years and have made a profit the past two years from my games, but I don't play that much anymore.

One of my goals is to have a tranquil balance of life and work. There is always stress, but you have to know your limits and when you are running low on reserves and nearing burnout. If you are facing an obstacle, you have to keep the faith that you can make it up to and past the peak and over to the other side.

What do you like best about your job?
The challenge of trying to keep the loads and drivers going where they need to go. I have been a driver myself, so I think I make a pretty good dispatcher. My experience with the military helps, too. Organization and communication are key in my past role in the Navy and my new role in dispatch at Brown Line.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero profile: Cathy Doyle

Posted on Mon, Mar 16, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Cathy Doyle, Customs District Manager at Lynden Canada Co. in Fort Erie, Ontario.

Everyday Hero March Cathy Doyle, Lynden Canada Co.Name: Cathy Doyle

Company: Lynden Canada Co.

Title: Customs District Manager

On the job since: 1989

Superpower: Perfect Attendance

Hometown: Fort Erie, Ontario

Favorite Movie: The Sound of Music

Bucket List Destinations: Thailand and Scotland

For Fun: Watching my children's basketball and soccer games, decorating, home renovation projects and spending time with family and friends.

How did you start your career at Lynden?
I worked for customs broker Key Customs for many years. It was purchased by Lynden approximately 12 years ago. I started working in the customs business right out of high school. I was only 16 when I graduated and turned 17 that summer. My first job was working for my father, who was a customs broker. They had an employee out on maternity leave and I filled in for the summer. I had planned to go to college to be a lawyer, but I really liked the full-time paycheck. I stayed there, bought a car and kept on working. I ended up taking customs courses over the years and, finally, the Customs Broker Professional examination issued by Canada Customs. I completed several years of courses to improve my knowledge and skills.

What is a typical day like for you?
It's never the same. You get up in the morning and think you have your day planned. You have work from the day before, imports to work on, etc., but you come in and a million things come at you at the same time. I almost always stay late; there are times I don't get home until 10 p.m., especially in the summer. Many of our customers have seasonal freight with a large volume increase for their shipments in the summer. That season is always our busiest. We have a client that does asphalt paving and imports oil for the roads. They ship to companies all over Canada and it's nonstop in the summer. I almost always eat lunch at my desk, and I have a cupboard of snacks that the whole office knows about. Recently our office supervisor, Jennifer, has taken over a majority of my duties so I am freed up to do other tasks with clients such as meeting new regulations and trying to expand our business into more freight and warehousing.

I am trying to get the word out that we offer much more than just customs brokerage. I'm setting up meetings and selling the business. Many of our customers have been with us 15 to 20 years. I have dealt with them regularly over the years and they come to me with questions. We have a good rapport and a well-established relationship. I enjoy that part of the job.

What has been most challenging in your career?
There have been many challenges recently, and mostly in the past two years or so. Lynden Canada not only was in the midst of re-structuring, but also changing onto the new system CargoWise for all customs clearance and freight. Recently we are trying to go paperless with the CargoWise system for customs clearance, freight and invoicing. We switched systems almost two years ago and that has been a big change. There have been a lot of changes in customs at the same time as well. Other Canadian government departments are going electronic which requires more information from our customers for import of their products.

What changes have you seen over the years, either in business, customers or technology?
Customs has been electronic for numerous years, but they have recently gone to a different system which incorporates other government departments as well. It's a single window entry. We are asked to provide much more detailed information and use 'single windows' for all imports of our clients products into Canada, which incorporates all other government departments and their regulations. It's all in an effort to make the borders more secure and to make sure that customers are being compliant with the imports. We all support this, but the changes are a lot to keep up with at times, and can be very challenging.

When I started with Lynden Canada, we had a computer system, but our client base was handled manually with a few binders containing data, client agreements, products and special notes for each client. It was filled with each client's import details, importer numbers, specific billing instructions, etc. We also cleared their shipments through Canada Customs using hard copies of import forms and information provided by them was done through either telex or fax. If you needed additional information on their products and it had to be in writing, I remember the telex would ding.

Drivers could sometimes stand in line waiting for an hour or two at customs for clearance on any given day, especially during the busy seasons. They would have to put their paperwork in a tray and wait for a release before they could leave. You also could have over 100 trucks parked in the customs compound at certain times throughout the day. Today, the drivers do not even have to get out of their trucks. Everything is electronically handled by the brokers on behalf of the clients as well as by the carriers, dispatchers and drivers who are required to provide all details electronically to Canada Customs. All commercial carriers must also be customs registered to carry commercial goods, and all drivers must be pre-approved as well.

At our Fort Erie office where I am located, we handle all the import clearance for trucks and air shipments (except Toronto airport). We also handle every border crossing throughout Canada from east to west. Each one of our imports team members has assigned ports which they would handle. On any given day we may clear between 60 and upwards of 90 to 100 import shipments.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I am the oldest of three children in my family. I have two younger brothers, one which is only a year and half younger than me, so we were very close but also fought quite often growing up as all siblings do.

My family was into sports. I did figure skating (competed for 10 years), gymnastics for about 15 years and played baseball when I was younger. I had figured skated until high school graduation. I played in a girls' softball league growing up and as an adult played local softball as a pitcher in a mixed league from age 17 to 26. I also bowled for over 25 years, and for a majority of those years in the customs bowling league. I do not play softball any longer but I do still bowl on occasion when time allows.

I have two daughters ages 24 and 18. One is currently in college and the other graduated a couple of years ago. My youngest daughter chose to continue with basketball after high school and currently plays college varsity basketball. My oldest daughter has since graduated college in the physio therapy field a couple of years ago, but while in high school she had chosen soccer as her sport while attending college and she had played for three years on the women's varsity soccer team.

What was your first job?
I babysat as a teen. We had neighbors with young children and every summer I would work for two different families. I was 14 years old and babysat a newborn baby and a 2-year-old for one family. I would go to their house at 7:30 a.m., get their kids and then go to the second family's house where there were two more kids, ages 3 to 5. I would babysit the whole group in one house, by myself, from 8:30 to 5 p.m. every day, five days a week.

What would surprise most people about you?
I skipped a grade while in elementary school and graduated from high school at age 16.

I did hold the women's high average for bowling in Fort Erie mixed league, until I quit three years ago. And I also took the bowling title numerous times for ladies high single, high triple and average several years in a row. My mother and I were always in competition for those titles as she was a bowler also. I started bowling because of my parents.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
My husband and I are just recently first time empty nesters. We are updating and renovating our nest by undertaking all sorts of home improvement projects. Since this summer we have redone the flooring throughout the upstairs, painted and redone the kitchen. I am doing it all myself, with his assistance. We had also gutted the bathroom and redid that, as well as painted and redecorated the bedrooms, family room and living room so far.

Throughout the past 12 to 15 years, we spent a lot of time traveling throughout Ontario as well as the U.S. to support both of our daughters' sports careers. As our youngest daughter played basketball in the summers for a Buffalo, New York based team, we would spend our summer vacation usually in Indiana, Philadelphia and Kentucky as well as all over New York state for long weekend tournaments.

We also try, as a family, to get to Wasaga Beach near Collingwood, Ontario every year, even if just for a weekend with our daughters and or even their friends. It's an annual vacation we take to a friend's cottage every year since my children were born, so we try to find the time each summer.

What do you like best about your job?
It's always challenging. I do not like repetition.

The most important thing is the team we have here in Fort Erie. Most of us have been here and together for 10 to 20 years. We also have a really good team in Milton. We are always helping each other out and can call each other at any time. In our office we are on call 24-7 for the drivers anyway, and always know how to get ahold of each other during off hours should the need arise. Each person is always willing to jump in to assist the others. Our staff in Fort Erie is like a close-knit family, and sometimes over the years we have actually spent more hours together at work then we did at home with our own families. We also make a point to celebrate each other's birthdays and Christmas every year and are constantly bringing in treats and coffee to share.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

Everyday Hero profile: Brett Roberts

Posted on Thu, Feb 20, 2020

Lynden is recognizing employees who make a difference every day on the job and demonstrate our core values, Lynden's very own everyday heroes! Employees are nominated by managers and supervisors from all roles within the Lynden family of companies. Learn more about the people behind your shipment.

Introducing Brett Roberts, Lead Mechanic at Alaska West Express in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Everyday Hero Brett RobertsName: Brett Roberts

Company: Alaska West Express

Title: Lead Mechanic

On the job since: 1989

Superpower: Mechanical Diagnostics

Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD

Favorite Movie: Pixar film Cars

Bucket List Destination: New Zealand

For Fun: Fishing, hunting and restoring a 1971 28-foot Uniflight Salty Dog vessel

How did you start your career at Lynden?
One of the drivers from the company I was working for heard about the job at Alaska West Express. I was 24 years old, single and ready for an adventure. I had an aunt and uncle that lived about 40 miles from Fairbanks, so I drove up in my 1977 Dodge pickup and stayed with them. I had always seen pictures of Alaska and said I was going to live there.

I interviewed with Leon Bender on a Friday and started work on Dec. 1, 1989 as a grease monkey servicing trucks. Even though I had two years of diesel mechanic training, I started where they needed me. Just because you know it doesn’t mean you get to do it. My dad was a mechanic and I worked at truck shops since I was 16. I may not be able to remember names, but I can take an engine apart and remember where everything goes!

What is a typical day like for you?
I get to work about 4:30 a.m. I have an 18 mile commute to the shop. No one lives in Fairbanks. It’s a rush minute instead of a rush hour. The vicinity is 100,000 people, but you are talking about an 80-mile circle. I have 2 ½ acres of land and that’s not big.

Lately we have been extremely busy so I have had a six-day work week. We service from 15 to 20 trucks and trailers each day in 11 bays in our shop. They leave in the morning by 7 or 8 a.m., that’s the driver’s goal. It takes them 15 hours to drive up the haul road depending on their load. They take 10 hours off, then drive back 12 hours. Other trucks are headed to the Pogo gold mines or hauling military freight or going to Anchorage.

Our mechanics do a full inspection on each 1,100-mile trip the trucks make up the haul road. We check for broken springs, bad U-joints, broken lights and check the brakes. We do a chassis lube with the power greaser and check the driver’s report for anything electrical or any engine issue. Sometimes the trucks turn quick, other times they are in the shop for two or three days depending on the condition. Trucks take a beating on the haul road (Dalton Highway). It’s different than any other road in the Lower 48. Up here, the frozen, hard ice roads are better than the roads during the spring and summer. Once the thaw starts, you may be chaining up just to get through the mud! Our weather ranges from 100 degrees to 50 below.

I am restoring two heavy duty off-road trucks from Red Dog Mine that will soon be put to use at Prudhoe Bay. They have three axles and we start at the front bumper and work to the back, rebuild motors and wiring and eventually repaint these trucks.

I was already building trannies in high school. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or curse but I have mechanical ability. From bumper to bumper on a truck, I can figure it out or I will learn it. I sometimes do trainings here to teach new employees. I work with 20 other mechanics. With so much going on, it doesn’t matter if you’re fixing a transmission, rebuilding a rear end, swapping a rear end or electrical… I don’t do service very much. I help other guys after they find a problem.

What has been most challenging in your career?
Electronic engines. I’m not a computer guy, but I’ve had to become a computer guy to work on the new engines. The funny thing is my boy is a computer programmer. He writes programs for computers. I don’t even like carrying a cell phone. Alaska West Express sent me to Freightliner electronic computer training in 1994. I muddle through it, but it’s not how I used to do things.

What changes have you seen over the years, either in business, customers or technology?
Electronic engines and brakes are now all ABS. When I started there was no ABS brake systems. Now we have electronic transmissions and all LED lighting. Equipment and parts have improved. From tires to wires, it’s all more reliable and lasts longer. They are making a better product. The trucks are way more dependable than they used to be.

What project(s) are you most proud of?
Getting trucks back on the haul road quickly and safely is probably the biggest thing, but I also went to Hawaii with Jeff McKenney last year to set up a Smit-tipper for a project. This piece of equipment is made up of about 4 trailer loads and was stored in Fairbanks. We had to get it down to Seattle, get it set up and test it before moving it to Hawaii for use with lime to help keep emissions down at a local power plant. I’ve been here so long I was one of only a few people who actually knew how to assemble it and use it. It took us a week on Oahu to get it set up with the auger and all the pieces. It’s 70 feet long when it’s all put together. I was also sent to Bethel, AK for a week to put together and test new Piston Bully snowcats and sleighs.

Can you tell us about your family and growing up years?
I come from a family of five kids. I have an older brother and three younger sisters. Mom is still living in the house where they brought me home from the hospital in South Dakota. After high school I went to technical school in Minnesota for two years and moved to Alaska shortly after. I have been married to my wife Talitha for 13 years and have a grown son Tyler. We also had a foster daughter for eight months in 2011.

What was your first job?
Besides pulling weeds on a farm, my first real job was putting up chain link fences at 13 years old.

What would surprise most people about you?
When I was in vocational school, I dropped a 3208 Caterpillar engine on my right thumb. It cut it right off. I had it sewed back on in Minneapolis, but it didn’t take and it had to come off again. I was 20. This was two weeks before graduation. It was a blow. I still don’t know why it happened to me, but when I went back to the doctor to have the thumb removed a second time, he asked me if I had a job yet. I thought I was going to be out of work. I started applying right away so the day I graduated from vo-tech school I had a job.

When something like that happens, you can’t let it ruin your life. It humbles you and you have to learn to cope. I am ambidextrous so that helped me adapt as a mechanic. I like to say it threw a monkey wrench in my plans, but I got through it.

How do you spend your time outside of work?
I have five snow machines, two four-wheelers, a river boat and a motor home. I like to get out and hunt and fish in the winter. There aren’t too many roads, so I can go 50 miles in one direction and find good areas for hunting moose and caribou with muzzle loaders. My days off are Friday and Saturday so I can leave Thursday night and go out to hunt and fish then leave Saturday when people are just arriving. I also like going down to Valdez and fishing the rivers for pike and salmon.

I have a portable ice shack. I did a lot of ice fishing in South Dakota with my dad. That was his way of unwinding. He caught big fish and could’ve claimed state records, but he never turned anything in because he wanted to keep his fishing areas a secret. He broke the catfish record three times. He couldn’t lie, so he just didn’t say anything.

I also enjoy woodworking and building kitchen cabinets out of mahogany or oak. I’ve built cabinets for my parent’s home and done some restorations. My wife is an event planner so she asks me to make wooden centerpieces and tables for her weddings sometimes.

Last year, I also went to Papua New Guinea to help build a house for a missionary from our church.

What do you like best about your job?
I still get satisfaction when a truck leaves the shop and you know that it is safe and ready for the road and driver. That feels good. I’m here to help the company and make the company better in the end.

Tags: Everyday Heroes

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