Blaine area port director discusses new role

PortDirectorBy Stefanie Donahue

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced the hire of a new area port director in Blaine last March. After a few months of service, long-standing employee Ken Williams sits down and discusses his new role with CBP.

When did you begin your career with CBP? 

I started with U.S. Customs as a customs inspector in May 1991 right here in Blaine. It’s sort of unique because there are rarely area port directors who are still at the location where they started their career.

I am very proud of that. Hopefully I’m able to finish my career here in Blaine.

Describe your role as area port director. What are your biggest responsibilities?

My job here really is to ensure the safety and welfare of all our personnel who report to me.

The Blaine port has a pretty large footprint. It ranges from Friday Harbor over to the Idaho-Washington state border and the northern part of Washington state. It includes 17 ports and stations as well as a general aviation airport, Bellingham International Airport and the ferry system between Friday Harbor and Anacortes, Washington.

I report to the director of field operations in Seattle. My job is to carry out those tasks as directed by my boss that come out of the Department of Homeland Security and CBP headquarters.

What do you enjoy most about this role?

What I enjoy most is having the ability to affect change on a large scale. Meaning that every area port director has the ability to sort of put his stamp on projects.

Our goal is to do whatever it takes to ensure the safety and the morale of our employees here. At the end of the day, I want the employees to be happy to come to work here.

On a public front, what initiatives are you taking to improve the user experience? 

Nationally, CBP is the driver of creating things to improve the traveler experience.

I help improve the user experience by furthering CPB’s professionalism engagement programs. [For example], I meet with the officers and the managers to discuss our role and how to ensure that we’re professional in all of our activities.

I believe that is the first step to improving the traveler’s experience here. When they arrive, travelers can be confident the officer performing their inspection is knowledgeable and displays a level of professionalism that they have an expectation to have when they are crossing the border.

Can you identify any goals you have for the coming years as director?

The biggest and most important goal of mine, and I can’t stress it more, is just to assure the safety and morale of the employees that I supervise. It’s a big job. Especially in this day and age where you have these facets that are attacking law enforcement officers. It’s just a call that I never want to get.

One of the things that we’re trying to focus into is to ensure that our officers are educated on what to do on and off duty if something tragic happens.

What is your proudest moment with CPB?

I think my proudest accomplishment is the position that I hold now. When I took this job in 1991, I had no idea that I would, nor did I aspire to be, an area port director.

My proudest moment was doing my change in command and the number of people who came out to show their support from numerous agencies, friends and family, from all over the country.

I would venture to say that that’s been my proudest moment. I have several accomplishments that I am proud of, you know, seizures and arrests and things of that nature, but I believe that this is my proudest moment.

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