2010: Tom Barrett is hired as Alyeska President
Admiral Barrett to Lead Alyeska Pipeline — This November 16, 2010, announcement marked a significant milestone in Alyeska and TAPS history. Tom Barrett was the first company president hired as an Alyeska employee. For the first 30 years of existence, executives from owner companies led Alyeska while on loan from their corporations. Barrett retired in 2020 and was the longest serving of Alyeska’s top executives.
Barrett’s background as a regulator also differentiated him from his oil industry predecessors. He served 35 years in the United States Coast Guard, attaining the position of Vice Commandant following several tours in Kodiak and Juneau. He oversaw national safety programs as the first Administrator of the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), and he served as Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation under both President Bush and President Obama.
“I was delighted the TAPS Owners offered me the opportunity and appreciated their confidence in me and willingness to invest in the system for the long term,” said Barrett. “I knew how important TAPS was to Alaska and to national energy security and was aware of TAPS operational challenges from my prior positions. Operating a unique pipeline system across Alaska’s harsh yet environmentally sensitive environment, supported by tough, smart employees, became a highlight of my working career.”
“After many years of filling the Alyeska President’s role with loaned executives from the parent companies, in 2010 the TAPS Owners Committee decided it was time for Alyeska to have its own independent leader,” said Chuck Coulson, retired BP executive and former chair of the TAPS Owners Committee. “This was in recognition of the confidence the Owners had developed in the Alyeska organization. After an extensive search, the Owners selected retired Coast Guard Admiral Tom Barrett to be Alyeska’s first “wholly Alyeska” President. We felt his extensive experience leading large organizations as well as his deep understanding of the regulatory environment Alyeska operates in would be a good fit. In retrospect, it has been one of the decisions I’m most proud of in all my years of being a member of the Owners Committee.”
Inside Alyeska, Barrett quickly became known for his commitment to safety and ethics, his respect for the people and his appreciation for the TAPS culture.
“Those who sustain TAPS operations appreciate how special and important TAPS is; they take exceptional pride in looking out for each other and maintaining and operating the system reliably and safely,” Barrett reflected. “This ‘TAPS Pride’ culture was borne out by consistently strong safety and reliability stats. Collectively, we were proud to continue a remarkable Alyeska professional legacy capable of overcoming any challenge we faced, especially in the field.
“It’s one thing to talk about doing an urgent system repair; it’s quite another to get it done in arctic conditions. Whenever a serious problem arose, workers showed up, sometimes seemingly unbidden, and worked together to move aggressively and get the job done. When we made mistakes, we sought to learn from them and improve our performance going forward.”
Strengthening Alyeska’s commitment to the Alaska Native community was a priority for Barrett. “Our unique and special relationships with Alaska Natives benefits Alyeska far more than many realize. From prior roles I had some appreciation of the strong connection between Alaska Native people and Alaska’s waters and marine life. Alyeska really opened my eyes to the connection between Alaska Native’s and their traditional land. Working to strengthen connections with people along the TAPS right-of-way and with organizations such as First Alaskans Institute (FAI) and the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) put me in contact with some of the most amazing people and best employees I’ve known. These relationships are a great gift to the company and to me personally.”
Barrett and his wife Sheila live in Anchorage where he serves on the board of directors of First National Bank of Alaska and actively volunteers in the community.