Port tabs Whittaker to head Fishermen's Terminal

Navy veteran spent past decade at Sea-Tac airport

Fishermen’s Terminal has a new head of day-to-day operations, and the man tabbed by the Port of Seattle for the role calls it a, “storybook position.”

“[It’s] the first asset of the Port, very historic,” said Delmas Whittaker. “When you start saying you’re the home of the North Pacific fishing fleet, it gravitates you to that.”

Whittaker takes on the official title of Maritime Division Senior Manager, Fishing and Commercial Vessels, as the Terminal moves into the first phase of the Gateway Development project, among other looming ventures.

“Change is always one of those big challenges,” he said. “We want to continue to make ourselves viable going into the 21st century.”

He also noted the importance of environmental stewardship as the Terminal evolves, citing the recent installation of solar panels on the roof of Net Shed 5.

Before taking on his new role, Whittaker spent the past decade in aviation maintenance at Sea-Tac Airport, most recently as logistics and small works manager. He also served as manager of the Airport Distribution Center, a 50,000 square foot warehouse and 32 satellite storerooms, with approximately $6.5 million of materials and resources.

Those roles required the management of people, personnel, resources, and assets, all of which he believes will help him in his new position.

“[There’s] a lot of coordination and bridging the gap, as far as between not only the Port, but our tenants and the community,” he said.

But Whittaker also plans to lean on his 25 years in the U.S. Navy — the last 13 as a commissioned officer before joining the Port — as something that provided him with some exposure to the seaport environment that he needs for his new job. He noted his time at Naval Magazine Indian Island, supporting 13 department heads in the roles in addition to working with other groups that had buildings and responsibilities at the facility, which he likened to tenants.

He recalled one instance where he was asked if he’d have any problems transitioning from his naval duties to his position at the airport.

“If I can manage bombs and bullets, I’m sure I can manage boxes of tools and equipment for folks to put together machinery or technology in the airport,” he said.

Whittaker replaces Kenny Lyles in the role, after the latter’s promotion to director of fishing and commercial operations for the Port; the combined department for the business operations of both Fishermen’s Terminal and Terminal 91. He had known Lyles as the, “Mayor of Fishermen’s Terminal,” something that stuck with him as he pursued the role.

“It was really kind of being that ambassador for the Port to our fishing fleet that was not only an impressive title, but it seemed like a position that carried a lot of responsibility and accountability,” he said.

But Whittaker also noted his interest in problem solving, and community outreach. Though, work isn’t the only way he tries to lend a helping hand.

When he’s not at Fishermen’s Terminal, you just might find Whittaker working with young athletes as a track and field coach and certified official.

He competed in high school, but in his words his son (now a student-athlete at Central Washington), “eclipsed everything that I’d ever do.”

“He was real quick to tell me that, ‘Dad, you couldn’t get on the field,’ because parents are supposed to be in the stands,’” he said.

Whittaker laughed as he recalled then becoming a coach, official, and the vice president of his son’s track and field club.

“I could be on the field,” he said.

But during the week, he’ll be managing the people and personnel that support the 400-plus vessels that call the Terminal home, and their mission. And though he enjoyed his view of the runway at Sea-Tac, the boats outside his new office have already grown on him.

“It really is nice to look out the window and see the fishing boats here, and think of ways that we could continue to help be the best steward we could be to the folks that berth here,” he said.

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