Hawkins named ‘Harbormaster of Year’

At the 34th annual conference of the Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators, Homer Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins was recognized as the association’s Harbormaster of the Year.

“I could tell something was in the wind when I got to the conference,” said Hawkins of secretive conversations going on around him after he arrived at the Valdez event held Oct. 21-25.

Of being named AAHPA’s harbormaster of the year, Hawkins said he was both honored and humbled.

“The award makes it sound like I’m a one-man team, but I’m certainly not,” said Hawkins. “We have got a good team in Homer and everybody is working hard to advance us and I’m honored to be able to work with them.”

The official announcement came at the conference’s formal dinner. Kim Elliot, AAHPA executive secretary, said individuals are chosen based on nominations. Hawkins’ nomination came from Homer City Manager Walt Wrede.

“Bryan has exhibited superior performance in port and harbor management,” said Wrede in his nomination outlining Hawkins’ leadership “in addressing issues that affect all ports and harbors in Alaska, including, but not limited to, derelict vessels and promoting and implementing the Clean Harbors Program.”

Wrede also noted Hawkins’ role in initiating an outreach and marketing program through collaborations with organizations such as the Homer Chamber of Commerce and the Homer Marine Trades Association, his effort to expand opportunities and services for marine businesses, and the positive effect of those efforts on the local economy and Homer’s Port and Harbor Enterprise Fund.

“Bryan is currently overseeing approximately $24 million in capital construction projects in the next two years,” said Wrede of activities that include upgrades to the Deep Water Dock; construction of new restrooms, passenger staging facilities and trails; ramp and float replacement; expanded water and electrical service to the commercial float; and the renovation and expansion of the load and launch ramp.  

Construction of a new port and harbor office building is currently in the design phase.

Hawkins also commissioned a port and harbor rate study to develop a fee schedule “that is sustainable and will provide for operating expenses and repair and replacement of infrastructure into the future,” said Wrede. “He has reduced energy costs by taking a variety of steps to reduce consumption and increase efficiency.”

Wrede also credited Hawkins for improved customer service, reflected by comments received by the city on a regular basis.

“He has exhibited exemplary supervisory skills and he leads by example,” said Wrede.

“He establishes clear expectations and sets the performance bar high. His staff is happy, motivated and very productive.”

At a regular meeting of the Homer City Council on Monday, Mayor Beth Wyeth presented Hawkins with a plaque.           

“The many contributions Bryan has made to the port and harbor have earned the utmost esteem of his peers,” said Wythe. “We are so proud.”

Accepting the plaque, Hawkins first expressed appreciation for the support of his wife, Jennifer, who was excited when Hawkins took a “low impact, low stress, 40-hour-a-week job” at the harbor in 2000.

“I didn’t stay the course. I’m sorry,” said Hawkins, drawing a laugh from those around him by his reference to becoming harbormaster in 2008.

He also noted the group effort required to keep the harbor operating and to achieve the accomplishments noted in Wrede’s nomination.

“I have a fantastic staff and we should all be very, very proud,” he said. “And then there’s the city employees. Everybody has a hand in this task.”

Hawkins drew another laugh when, using the ship’s wheel on the plaque as an illustration, he described his role as harbormaster.

“All ships’ wheels, whether large or small, have one thing in common. If you follow the spokes to the hub where it’s connected to a spindle, they’re held in place by one single nut,” he said.

Elliot said nomination letters for harbormaster of the year include the length of time the nominee has been on the job, “meaning time to have done something of note.” Hawkins was already well known to the association.

“He has served on our board of directors for several years and was re-elected this year,” Elliot told the Homer News by email. “Bryan was selected because he was very deserving.”

The Alaska Association of Harbormasters and Port Administrators consists of harbormasters, port directors and administrative personnel from across the state. Thirty-five harbors are represented. The conference was attended by 85 people, with Diane Kinney of the port of Valdez the event host.

“It’s just an invaluable organization that offers support for new harbormasters like I was and then you never stop learning and mentoring,” said Hawkins. “The networking and subject matter of the conference are very valuable and the lobbying power from that group has done some pretty remarkable things.”

Among those accomplishments is creation of the Alaska Municipal Harbors Grant Program, which has provided funding for Homer harbor projects.

Hawkins oversees a staff of 16 full-time positions and nine seasonal employees. During the peak of the summer season, the harbor provides space for more that 1,000 vessels, as well as the activity at the load-launch ramp. During the winter, the number of vessels in the harbor drops to 350-400. 

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.