Accomplished Port Agent Bobby Selzer Retires

 

May 2017

 

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A longtime SIU fixture and dedicated union employee has called it a career.

 

Bobby Selzer most recently served as the port agent in Jersey City, New Jersey, but his SIU tenure spanned 56 years. He was, at different times, an employee of the Seafarers LOG and the creator and supervisor of an SIU print shop, though most remember him fondly as the port agent in Brooklyn, New York.

Brooklyn is still home for Selzer, 78, who retired late last year.

 

“He is a dear friend,” said SIU Executive Vice President Augustin Tellez, “who introduced me to fine wine. He yelled at everybody – but that was just his way. If he didn’t yell at you, that meant he didn’t like you. But he has a big heart, a very generous soul, and a bellowing laugh. He is a loyal friend.”

 

Selzer joined the union in 1960, and then- SIU President Paul Hall told him to start an in-house print shop. This was just the first of many tasks he would dutifully perform over his career.

 

Selzer recalled, “Paul Hall asked me to start up a print shop in the old days, the LOG Press, before I worked the counter at the Brooklyn hall as a patrolman. I worked in three different locations, including the Jersey hall after the move. I went wherever they needed me, even working in the LOG office with Herb Brand for a time.”

 

Selzer became the port agent in Brooklyn in 1984, and it’s a job title he held until his retirement.

 

Reflecting on his years of service, he said the maritime industry has undergone many modifications.

 

“The government involvement is probably the biggest change,” he said. “As far as union, I’d say the changes in shipping rules and regulations are very different than they used to be. But all the changes are for the best, of course.”

 

SIU Vice President West Coast Nick Marrone fondly remembered working with Selzer: “Bobby was a mentor to me very early on in my career as a patrolman in Brooklyn. He was very articulate on how our dispatching duties were to be handled. He was always available and very helpful and patient through my learning process and always had you look into his eyes when he was explaining things to you so he would know you were understanding everything he said. I thought it was silly back then, but now, almost 40 years later I have come to understand how beneficial that is when communicating directly with someone.

 

“I appreciate Bobby for all he has done for me and all his dedication in maintaining and supporting our union objectives,” Marrone added. “I will always appreciate him and I am sending my warmest regards to him in his retirement.”

 

SIU Vice President Government Services Kermett Mangram also wished Selzer well in his retirement and added, “I’ve known Bobby for 36 years; he was one of my closest friends. He’s a great guy to be around with a great sense of humor.”

 

Good-naturedly, Mangram added, “Until I met him, I never knew one person could eat a whole chicken.”

 

“Bobby Selzer was truly one of the major building blocks of the SIU. If you doubt it, just ask him,” said Philadelphia Port Agent Joe Baselice. “He would remind you daily of his part in the no-nonsense days in New York, which shaped what the SIU is today. But underneath his brash exterior, Bobby has a heart of gold. He loves the membership, and cares about not only their livelihood but their personal lives. He was a great teacher and friend to me, and I owe him a ton more gratitude than I could ever give him. He’s a great man and will be missed by all of the SIU.”

 

Jersey City Port Agent Mark von Siegel remembered, “They broke the mold when they made Bobby. When I came to work for the SIU as a patrolman in Brooklyn, he was my port agent and my mentor, and he would do anything for the membership. He would always quote (the late SIU Vice President Contracts) Red Campbell, saying, ‘The rules are there for a reason.’ He instilled those values in everyone, to follow the rules and contracts to the letter.

 

“I wish him well in his retirement – he certainly earned it,” von Siegel concluded. “And I’d thank him for teaching me as well as he did, in the hopes that I could try and fill his shoes.”

 

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