General manager, Guam/Micronesia
American President Lines Ltd.
By Grace Stark
John Selleck, general manager for Guam and Micronesia of American President Lines Ltd., has always been drawn to islands. A self-professed “student of Pacific islands” since he was a child, he was fascinated with the cultures, economies, and history of islands — especially in Micronesia.
So when Selleck, an economist by training, was offered an opportunity in the early 1990s to work on a maritime economics project for the government of Guam involving shipping rates, he jumped at the chance. “They asked me, ‘Do you know where Guam is?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course I know where Guam is,’” he says. “I’d grown up with Chamorro friends and was really excited at the opportunity.”
Because the project was conducted off-island from Oakland, Calif., Selleck had to enjoy his first taste of Guam from afar. From there, he worked on another project for GovGuam calculating the economic impact of the U.S. military’s presence on Guam. At the time, there was an opportunity for Selleck to move to Guam, but it never came to fruition. Instead, he began a maritime economics consulting firm out of Oakland, still working on issues related to shipping and Guam.
Eventually, Selleck found himself employed as a consultant for APL. “At the time, Matson was the only shipping company for Guam for about four or five years,” he says and after reviewing Selleck’s economic studies on the subject, APL eventually made the decision to enter Guam’s shipping market. During the implementation period, Selleck was tapped to become the general manager at the new Guam office.
It seemed like fate — and a long time coming. “I told my girlfriend at the time — who is now my wife — that if I was offered the job, I’d have to take it,” Selleck says. “Not only did I want to do it, but I felt like I had to do it.” Selleck was offered the job, and thankfully his girlfriend was also on board for the move. The two moved to Guam in October 2015.
So why the fascination with islands? Selleck fondly recalls family trips to Hawaii. “There’s something about islands I’ve just always loved. My grandfather had stacks of National Geographic magazines and maps and globes, and I always loved reading about islands.”
He is equally fascinated by maps.
“Look at a map and you see a few continents, but then you look more closely, and there’s just so many thousands of islands. How can there be so many beautiful little islands? Their culture, history, mythology … it’s just always attracted me.”
The 19th century English economist David Ricardo helped explain the burgeoning field of economics by telling a story about fictional characters Robinson Crusoe and Friday, who live on separate islands and trade goods according to their individual talents, resources and needs. “Trade between islands is fascinating from an economics standpoint,” Selleck says. “They have easily defined boundaries and are perfect models around sustainability in terms of environmental and resource management. There’s a lot of things about improving life on an island that are very attractive to me as an economist.”
The most rewarding part of his career on Guam to date has been watching the shipping service grow.
“Going through the challenges, reducing costs and providing consumers and businesses more options … seeing these things come to fruition has been great.”
As for Guam, Selleck is thrilled to have finally made it to the island after a nearly 30-year process. He and his wife are enjoying life on Guam and all it has to offer, from morning runs on the beach to snorkeling and easy, cheap trips to places like Korea.
“Guam is a great place to live, it’s a great island, a great community, and has lots of great people. It’s a small community with a global presence, and it’s a place where you feel like you can make a difference.”