Acting Executive Director Deborah Ale-Flint has become the first African-American woman to serve at the helm of the Port of Oakland, the fifth busiest container port in the country.
She had previously worked since 2010 as aviation director at the Oakland International Airport, another first for an African-American woman.
A resident of Oakland for over 20 years, she has a Nigerian and Jamaican background.
“I lived in Nigeria as a teen because my physician father wanted to go back and contribute to his country,” she said. “It was there I learned the value of hard work and self-reliance. I’ve also lived in Canada and New York, but I claim Oakland as my home.”
Ale-Flint said she was drawn to her profession because Oakland is a special place, which is close to the sea.
“ I loved the water and the diversity. It just seemed hip and cool with so many people of color,” she said. “I also joined the port because the port transportation system with the seaport and the airport offers so many opportunities. I started in the finance department.”
She says she is supported in her work by the efforts of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners. “They have been really committed to transforming the port, and I see the tremendous amount of work they do as unpaid commissioners,” she said. “Their dedication has been especially critical these last couple of months when people have to do more, be more resourceful and take different actions to be successful.”
“I believe the most important message I have for young people is that hard work is the mother of good luck,” she said. “You always have to be better, and if you do your job well, it will pay off.”
She urges young people starting out and others to consider looking for job opportunities in the aviation sector and at the port. “Most people don’t realize the opportunities that exist until they investigate. I encourage anyone seeking work to go to www.portofoakland.com.”
Ale-Flint is married and has three school-aged children.