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Keeping Up With The Port Of Long Beach

Business Development Analyst Mechelle Smothers came to the United States as a Cambodian refugee with her family when she was a toddler. “I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. A church sponsored our journey to America,” she recounted. “I lived in Pennsylvania for a couple of years. My parents didn’t know how to live in the cold because Cambodia is a tropical climate,” she said, laughing. “They somehow found out there were Cambodians in Long Beach, so we caught the Greyhound [bus] out here.” Smothers started at the port 12 years ago, when a job as a clerk typist “fell into her lap.” From there, she worked her way up to the finance division, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in public administration while at the port. Smothers is responsible for managing her division’s $2.3 million budget and the port’s tariff incentive programs, which encourages sustainable vessel operations through financial rewards and dock rate reductions. Smothers enjoys the fact that every day on the job is different, and that she has the chance to meet port customers at industry conferences. “One of the most interesting questions I always ask people is how they ended up in the international shipping industry,” she said. “Lots of people stumbled upon it. They didn’t really plan on it.” Smothers described the problem-solving aspect of her role is the most challenging. “There’s different parties involved in the supply chain, so whenever there’s an issue, I have to do a little data-gathering,” she explained.

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