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Ryan Macnamara, four years after embarking on an experiential quest, is armed with the knowledge and know-how to help propel NorthStar into its (sustainable) future

By Hilary Reeves

Ryan Macnamara was still studying marketing at Western Washington University in Bellingham when he decided to pursue an internship to help launch his career after graduation.

“I had a deep respect for Mike Garvey, whom I’d known from childhood, and I was interested in coming to join the Saltchuk family,” he said. “I reached out to him, and he put me in touch with a number of companies.”

It was Delta Western, Macnamara said, that most excited him – and the feeling was mutual. He began his decade-long stint with the company in Seattle a week after he graduated in 2004. By 2014, Macnamara was happily managing a bevy of accounts.

“I put my marketing degree to use learning the Alaska business, but after 10 years spent learning contract creation and management, the different types of accounts, and how to manage the relationships, I recognized that my primary gap as a professional was related to my limited operational experience,” he said.

In the early years, the solution seemed obvious: when the time was right, Macnamara and his wife would move to one of the company’s terminals in Alaska so he could begin a more “hands-on” phase of his career. But once the eldest of his two sons reached Kindergarten, he knew a move to Alaska wasn’t in the cards anymore.

“There was a time period where it would have worked, but by the time I really needed to make a change, we couldn’t do Alaska anymore,” he explained.

Enter Covich Williams, a local, family-owned Chevron marketer.

“I was approached by Covich Williams and I was immediately struck by how similar their business was to one of Delta Western’s Alaska terminals,” said Macnamara. “The company’s general manager of 30 years was leaving, and they needed a new GM to step in and manage inside and outside sales, the warehouse, drivers – everything I was looking for in terms of experience and exposure.”

Delta Western’s management was encouraging and left the door open – so Macnamara took the job.

“I learned a heck of a lot. I’m happy that I did it,” he said.

Bridging the gap with a new team

Four years later, Macnamara is back in the Saltchuk fold – this time at NorthStar, Delta Western’s parent company, working as a Director of Pricing under VP of Supply and Logistics Don Stone.

“This year, the time was finally right,” he said. “Under new NorthStar leadership, Delta Western was making big changes. I’d heard that a shared service model was being rolled out whereby critical business functions were being done at the parent company level in order to strengthen the role of site managers at the terminal locations, allowing them to focus on their strengths, take greater ownership over the performance of their local businesses, and know that they have a supportive team behind them at NorthStar.”

Macnamara has been in the office for just a month but said he already feels a synergy between his past experience, both at Delta Western and at Covich Williams, and his new role.

“With my new understanding of operations from Covich Williams I saw a perfect opportunity to join Don (Stone),” he said. “Don needed someone experienced who could take the lead developing pricing strategies for each Delta Western terminal. I would be able to have an immediate, measurable impact on the business overall, and for each one of the sites.”

Macnamara, who knew Stone from his years at Delta Western, said he’s always admired Stone’s ability to see opportunities in a complex network of interconnected, moving parts.

“He could make things come to life that other people weren’t able to even see, and you wanted to be a part of that,” he said. “Don was building up a new group dedicated to finding supply efficiencies on behalf of existing markets while probing growth opportunities in entirely new places. This team would allow me to make an impact as a connector between that global supply strategy and the local markets that I knew well. I’m excited to be a part of bridging the gap between those two worlds.”

‘A bit surreal’

One thing that’s been brought to the forefront in the years since Macnamara left is that NorthStar is an energy company chock-full of energy solutions.

“I now have the opportunity to explore energy alternatives that are a focus of this new NorthStar-Delta Western regime more than ever,” he said. “The change that thrills me the most is bridging the gap between the energy of today and the energy solutions of tomorrow. I’m thrilled to be supporting site managers so directly as a connector between the parent company shared service model and the boots-on-the-ground operations; I truly care about our sites.”

One thing that hasn’t changed, Macnamara said, is that everyone wears a lot of hats.

“It’s been a big whirlwind – a bit surreal. There’s a completely different team in place. I’m still learning about the team and the different roles and how things have changed. There’s a lot to tackle. Luckily, we have someone at the helm in Bert (Valdman) who’s a real visionary. I’m just loving being back.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.