Four employees have 40+ years of service
This year, Georgia Ports celebrates the service of 43 longtime employees in the Fiscal Year 2023 class of retirees who made lasting contributions to the community and their teams.
Their average tenure is greater than 22 years, with eight serving for more than 30 years and four with 40+ years of service.
“GPA is fortunate to have a great history with long-term employees who retire after 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years on the job. Our employees are dedicated and passionate about what they do for the GPA,” said Lise Altman, chief human resource officer, adding that beyond excellent pay and benefits, it is important to give people a positive employee experience. “Our employees are given opportunities for growth not only within their jobs, but also through education and training. When you treat employees like family and respect them for the great things they bring to the GPA, they stay. We are truly fortunate.”
GPA’s largest department, Container Operations, makes up the largest contingent of FY2023 retirees, at 14 people. Port Police, with a total of 188 people between sworn officers and staff, followed with eight employees retiring.
Mark Bigham, of Port Police is the grand dean of this year’s crop of retirees, with 46 years at GPA. He is followed by Jill Gill at the Port of Brunswick, 44 years; Tommy Thompson, Port Police, 42 years, and Randy Weitman, Engineering, at 41 years of service. Bigham spent his first 25 years in patrol, working as both a patrol officer and shift supervisor. He spent his last 20+ years working in GPA’s credentialing center, as a brand ambassador welcoming and enrolling all new port users. As the first full-time person in this position, Bigham has trained all other GPA officers working in the credentialing office. “Mark created quite the legacy for himself, that of a quiet and steady professional,” said Kevin Doyle, senior director of protective services. “Fortunately, he also did an exemplary job of preparing and training those who will follow in his footsteps. Officer Rob Harrison has worked for years alongside Officer Bigham.”
Jill Gill retired in December after working for GPA since 1979. “In 1991, she became an operations administrative supervisor but her impact to Mayors Point and the entire GPA couldn’t be contained to just a job title,” said Susan Gardner, senior director of operations and projects. “Jill was often the first person anyone spoke to when calling our Mayor’s Point terminal. She offered anyone that called help with their questions and always went above and beyond to help anyone that needed it.” Gardner described Gill’s retirement as bittersweet, but said she was happy Jill was able to spend more time with her grandchildren. “Her sweet spirit was contagious and wonderful to see in a port environment. She often said that she felt like she grew up at the GPA,” Gardner said. “She got married, had kids and grandkids while working at the port and many of the team members at Mayors Point say the same thing.”
During his tenure with Port Police, Col. Tommy Thompson spent time in both patrol and investigations, serving in entry level, supervisory, and management positions. “Tommy first worked in port police patrol operations, and quickly distinguished himself as an excellent officer, and a leader,” Doyle said. “Tommy was quickly promoted to the rank of detective and began conducting criminal investigations to the benefit of Port Police and GPA.” After a stint as an investigator, Tommy was promoted to the rank of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain, in a relatively short period of time. “His leadership, work ethic and fierce loyalty to GPA distinguished him as someone who could always be counted on to get things done,” Doyle said. “Tommy later was promoted to the rank of major, and then colonel. During his time at these ranks, he worked for three different chiefs of police. He served all three of the chiefs with great distinction.” In his role as deputy/assistant chief, Thompson oversaw day-to-day operations of GPAPD’s Field Operations and Support Services divisions.
During his 41 years at GPA, Randy Weitman was involved with the planning and design of multiple projects that transitioned the Port of Savannah into a global gateway container port. “Randy’s calm demeanor and technical knowledge provided guidance on the port’s planning and capital improvement program to multiple outside stakeholders and governmental partners,” said Chris Novack, senior director of engineering and facilities maintenance. “He was instrumental in the implementation of the GPA/GDOT partnership that produced the Last Mile projects to connect GPA facilities to the GDOT highway system.” These projects included the SR307 Overpass that spans over the newly completed Mason Megarail project, the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway; and the current Brampton Road project that will link Garden City Terminal with Interstate 516/16. “Randy was dedicated to the GPA and his contributions will be felt for decades to come,” Novack said.
Over the past five years, GPA has averaged 40 retirees with a tenure of around 27 years per person, and an average of 1,010 years’ experience at GPA among the retiring classes.