Maritime veteran named to head Washington State Ferries

In recognition of his work with the WSF, Nevey received the Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management in 2023.

Washington State Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar has announced that Steve Nevey will serve as assistant secretary for its Washington State Ferries (WSF) division. 

In his new position, Nevey will serve as head of the ferry system, replacing Patty Rubstello, who retired after a 33-year career with the state Department of Transportation. 

For the past two years, he served as director of marine operations for the WSF and “has been instrumental in the development of programs that address ongoing staff shortages in the industry,” said Roger Millar.

With 21 ferries operating on Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea, the state’s ferry system is the largest such operation in the country. 

A career mariner and a graduate of the U.K.’s Southampton Solent University, Nevey’s experience includes work for a ferry system in Scotland and sailing aboard several Chevron tankers. 

Nevey moved to Seattle in 2008 after holding senior positions with Holland America Group, where he gained experience in ship retrofits and vessel maintenance, crew scheduling, human resources, and career tracking for Holland America’s deck officers. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Nevey helped lead worldwide operations management and emergency response.

In his role as a WSF director, he oversaw the creation of several innovative programs, including a scholarship partnership designed to train new deck officers and captains. 

In recognition, he received the Governor’s Award for Leadership in Management in 2023.

With the legislature’s support, he said, “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,” Millar said. 

Commenting on Nevey’s appointment, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said, “This is a pivotal time for our ferry system and I appreciate WSF conducting a highly competitive nationwide search for to fill this role.” 

Since the day he joined WSF in 2021, he said, “Steve 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 across a career in public service with WSDOT that spanned over 30 years.”