General Manager Appointment Expected at SSA Meeting Today

Gazette Senior Writer

Wayne Lamson, tapped five times to head the Steamship Authority on a temporary basis, will be put forward today as the best choice for general manager for the boat line.

At the monthly SSA meeting in Woods Hole this morning a search committee plans to recommend that Mr. Lamson be appointed to the top post, according to a source.

An advisory issued Wednesday by SSA general counsel Steven Sayers hinted at the news. "We have been advised that the search committee arrived at a recommendation at their meeting last week and are expected to submit their report to the board members on Friday for their consideration during the public session of the meeting," the advisory said.

The board may act quickly on the recommendation. "We hope to have a new general manager on Friday," Barnstable governor and board chairman Robert O'Brien said yesterday.

Mr. Lamson has been running the SSA since early August, when former chief executive officer Fred C. Raskin resigned. Over the past several months, boat line governors have applauded Mr. Lamson's efforts to improve daily operations. His initiatives have included shifting reservation clerk hours to better meet call demand, and widening the decks of the SSA freight ferries to accommodate more trucks per trip.

He also has reached out to the Islands, including Nantucket, whose residents were feeling so neglected by boat line management that they authorized an exploration of secession from the boat line. The secession effort apparently has now gone into limbo, owing largely to Mr. Lamson's low-key, hands-on management approach.

Despite his extensive Steamship Authority experience - and despite running the boat line in several temporary stints - Mr. Lamson had never put himself forward for the top job. In fact, he made it clear for years that he didn't want to be the general manager.

But that changed this summer, when Mr. Lamson allowed that he had seen and experienced enough at the SSA to run the boat line on a permanent basis. His decision surprised and encouraged SSA members, battered by months and years of tumult at the boat line.

Mr. Lamson has seen the boat line from the bottom up. While still in college, he started working at the SSA during summers and holidays as a ticket seller at the Woods Hole terminal.

He intended to pursue a career in public accounting. But after he was graduated from Bentley College, John J. McCue, then general manager of the boat line, offered to hire him as an auditor. Mr. Lamson took the job.

A year later, he became chief auditor. The job title subsequently was changed to treasurer.

One year later he was made chief auditor, a job he held for 10 years, when the title was changed to treasurer. He smiled at the memory of what Phil Read, the boat line governor from Nantucket, said at the time: "He said, ‘Give me liberty or give me Lamson.' "

In 1985, Mr. Lamson suddenly found himself named interim general manager after the boat line board fired the then-executive director, Joseph J. McCormack.

"Mr. Lamson says he did not ask for the general manager's job and he did not want it," the Vineyard Gazette reported in December 1985.

After a stint by Ron Eastman, Mr. Lamson was again named interim general manager, and again he made it clear that he did not want the top spot. The next general manager, Barry Fuller, left in 1994. Again Mr. Lamson was tapped to fill in.

Then came Armand Tiberio. When Mr. Tiberio departed in 2001, Mr. Lamson took the interim job, stepping aside when the boat line's first chief executive officer, Mr. Raskin, came on board in 2002.

But relations were strained from the outset between the boat line board and Mr. Raskin, who decided to resign this past summer. The call went out again for Mr. Lamson - but this time proved different.

"It's a chance to step forward, whereas in other times I have been a gatekeeper," he told the Gazette in an interview this summer. "This time I feel like there are a number of things we could be working on.

"The Steamship Authority has been good to me, starting with John McCue - he gave me a chance and a start," Mr. Lamson told the Gazette. "Mine is a slow approach, a more gradual approach. We go to meetings, I sit there and I hear the same problems, people complaining about the same things. I think about Joe McCormack and his team approach, and John McCue and his conservative approach. I'd like to combine the two things, I think, to work on these problems.

"I hate to be a Monday morning quarterback, but I do think looking back on the last year that there were some things done that were just insensitive to the Islands, and I think they could have been avoided," he said. "So now we are going to see if we can all work together again."