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Lifelong mariner to lead Washington State Ferries

Steve Nevey to head the nation’s largest ferry system

OLYMPIA – A career mariner, Steve Nevey, will serve as assistant secretary for the Washington State Ferries Division. Nevey progressed directly from high school to a maritime academy in the United Kingdom. For the past two years he has served as director of marine operations for WSF and has been instrumental in the development of programs that address ongoing staff shortages in the industry.

Nevey will succeed Patty Rubstello, who is stepping down as head of WSF to spend more time with family after more than 33 years of service with the Washington State Department of Transportation. Rubstello will remain assistant secretary to ensure a smooth transition until Nevey begins his new role on March 16.

"This is a pivotal time for our ferry system, and I appreciate WSF conducting a highly competitive nationwide search for this role," said Gov. Jay Inslee. "With the Legislature’s support, we’re making progress on staffing, vessel builds and electrification. Patty has been a calm voice in stabilizing and operating our iconic ferry system through many difficult challenges. I look forward to working with Steve to continue our progress and ensuring customers are well served, and I thank Patty for her dedicated service to our state."

"Nevey brings a wealth of experience to Washington State Ferries from a maritime career spanning more than two decades aboard large tankers, ferries and private craft to shoreside operations for Holland America," Millar said. "Since day one joining Washington State Ferries in 2021, he has worked tirelessly with his team and WSF leadership to find workable solutions to our staffing shortages and vessel-related maintenance and preservation challenges to ensure better service and reliability in the long term for the users of our WSF system. I look forward to working with him in the future and also want to thank Patty Rubstello for her service to all Washingtonians across a career in public service with WSDOT for over 30 years. She was never one to shy away from a challenge and for that she has my utmost respect and appreciation."

Nevey will chart the course of the biggest ferry system in North America. His experience spans on the water working for a ferry system in Scotland, major seagoing corporations and the cruise industry.

Nevey moved to Seattle in 2008 and held senior positions with Holland America Group, where he gained experience in ship retrofits and vessel maintenance, crew scheduling, human resources and career tracking for deck officers. During the pandemic, Nevey helped lead 24/7 worldwide operations management and emergency response.

In his role as director of marine operations for WSF, he has proven himself pivotal in addressing staff shortages by overseeing the creation of several new programs, including a scholarship partnership designed to train new deck officers and captains. In a short period of time, Nevey’s innovative thinking around these challenging issues resulted in him receiving the Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management in 2023.

WSF, a division of the Washington State Department of Transportation, is the largest ferry system in the U.S. and safely and efficiently carries tens of millions of people a year through some of the most majestic scenery in the world. For the latest service updates, sign up for rider alerts and track each ferry using the real-time map online.

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