SSA rep wants culture change
January 13, 2005
SSA Nantucket member Flint Ranney. Photo by Susan Safford
month, Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, newly appointed Marthas
Vineyard representative to the Steamship Authority (SSA), began
his three-year term. His Nantucket counterpart, Flint Ranney, began
his term five months earlier following the death of long-time Nantucket
member Grace Grossman.
Both men are expected to work well together and set a new tone in
a relationship that is often seen as the bedrock of boatline decision-making,
but has been shaky over the past several years.
A change in the authoritys enabling legislation provided a
35 percent vote for each island SSA member and 10 percent each for
New Bedford, Falmouth and Barnstable. Together, the island members
control 70 percent of the vote.
Mr. Ranney is no stranger to Mr. Hanover. Both men served on the
SSA port council and by their own accounts worked well together.
But Mr. Ranney is far less known on Marthas Vineyard. A trim,
distinguished-looking man with a dry wit, he attends SSA meetings
wearing a bow tie and Nantuckets signature brick-red pants,
and recently spoke with The Times.
A summer kid
Like many year round island residents on Nantucket and Marthas
Vineyard, Flint Ranney (rhymes with granny) began his move to full
time status as a seasonal resident.
Ive been a summer kid all my life, from age three months
every summer until 1977, when my wife and five kids and I moved
here year round, said Mr. Ranney.
He was living in Los Angeles following his discharge from the Navy
when he met his wife, Charron, and began to raise a family. He worked
as a stockbroker.
By the time his oldest daughter, Libby, was 11, he and his wife
decided that he preferred Nantucket to the brush fires, mudslides,
earthquakes, and traffic of LA.
We decided that Nantucket was a better place to live then
California, he said.
The family arrived on Nantucket in August 1977 and lived in Mr.
Ranneys parents summer house for two winters. The search
for a permanent house led to a new career as a real estate agent
for Denby Real Estate, a family-owned company. Five years later
the owners retired and Mr. Ranney bought the business he now operates
with three of his children, Kate, the office manager, Robert, an
appraiser, and Jamie, a lawyer.
Another son, William, is a Navy diver and explosive ordinance disposal
expert who recently served in Iraq for six months and is now based
His oldest daughter, Libby, Nantuckets town administrator,
is married to a lieutenant in the Nantucket police department.
Charm of the Nobska
Mr. Ranney said his interest in the Steamship Authority began with
his familys frequent trips many years ago aboard the Nobska,
the old steamer that once ran between Woods Hole and Nantucket,
a boat that some would like to resurrect.
I always liked riding on the Nobska, said Mr. Ranney.
We would get on at Woods Hole and rent a stateroom for $5.
It would take hours and was just wonderful.
Mr. Ranney is not new to public service. He served three terms on
the Nantucket school committee (I finally said nine years
is enough, let someone else do this.) and has been a member
of Rotary Club for 25 years.
Mr. Ranney said he agreed to serve on the port council at the request
of Mrs. Grossman and always suspected she was grooming him to take
the job. Her sudden death in late July while he was on vacation
came as a surprise.
Mr. Ranney said he decided to serve on the SSA board because it
is an opportunity to change the authority culture and
make the boatline a great organization. The focus he said must be
on the customers.
Management has to be more customer-orientated, said
As an example, he ticks off the attributes of the Hy-Line, a privately
owned ferry line that provides high-speed passenger service between
Nantucket and Hyannis.
Highly customer oriented, clean boats, friendly people, good
reliable service. The SSA needs that, he said.
Mr. Ranney was chairman of the general manager search committee
that recommended the boatline cut the search short and hire Wayne
Lamson. He said Mr. Lamson is beginning to change the focus.
If Wayne [Lamson] can convince crews and unions to be customer
friendly, it could really become a very good organization
which it used to be, he said. Customer service starts
with management, and I think Wayne is already doing it.
He said boat crews must have pride of ownership in the
vessels they work on. One suggestion he has is a system that keeps
the same crew together.
If a crew owns that boat, takes pride in that trip, then the
boats will be clean, the bathrooms will be clean, and the boat will
not be rusty, he said.
Mr. Ranney said he thinks too much stress has been put on allocating
each separate cost to each route. He said the boatline was set up
to serve as the lifeline for both islands and costs have a way of
He sees little hope of stemming fare increases over the long run,
given the pressures placed on the boat line by fuel and labor costs.
He said more efficient operation might be one way to help slow the
rise in fares.
Mr. Ranney approaches the subject of the relationship between the
two islands realistically. He said it was permanently changed when
the legislature altered the authority and gave New Bedford a vote.
The two islands can stick together to a point but the real
partnership is between the Vineyard and Falmouth and Nantucket and
Hyannis, he said.
Mr. Ranney said that Nantucket and Hyannis have in recent years
not done a good job of communicating with each other. He is hopeful
that relationship can be improved.
On the often prickly subject of New Bedford service, he does not
think regular service between Nantucket and New Bedford is practical
given the long distance, other than for barging and bulk freight
Last year at the height of Nantuckets dissatisfaction with
SSA management, a behind-the-scenes effort surfaced, led by Mrs.
Grossman to explore a boatline split. That initiative appears to
have lost considerable steam.
It is better to try to fix what we have then to try to split
it, said Mr. Ranney, who following his SSA appointment, stepped
off a committee of Nantucketers set up to explore a split.
Mr. Ranney said the boatline had run aground over the
past ten years, but he is optimistic the current board and management
will set it back on course. He likes Marc Hanover and said the two
men share common views of what the boatline needs.
He and I get along very well, he said.
Asked what he brings to the SSA board, Mr. Ranney said, A
sense of humor, common sense, an open mind, and a willingness to
participate in discussions and some compromise.