ABA Member Spotlight: Mindy Dean-Caldwell, Portland Spirit and Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Cruises

ABA’s Member Spotlight features a new member every other month, highlighting how they are making a difference and how they have benefited from ABA membership. This is a great opportunity to share your story with your colleagues, and the industry, as well as strengthen awareness of the profession and association.  

Name: Mindy Dean-Caldwell

Job Title/Position: Director of Service

Company Name: Portland Spirit and Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Cruises

City, State: Portland, Ore.

Motto: I thought my Senior Class motto from HS was horrible. We all picked it because we were rebels (haha). I’ve thought about it through the years and now realize it was so much better than any of the others that we could have chosen. You can literally apply it to anything in your life…  “Push, Pull or Get out of the Way”

How did you first get involved in this industry? I found the job through a friend. She recommended me because I had previously managed a staff of 20 people and the Portland Spirit was looking for managers.

What is your favorite part of the job? I love meeting new people! You can always find some sort of connection with someone that you’ve just met. 

Who has inspired you in your career? So many people, but I’ll go back to the first manager that I had at a previous job, who got me into managing in the first place. He always had my back, taught me balance of managing a company, and I always felt like he really listened to my problems (I was 21 back then, I’m sure I had A LOT of problems!).

What has been the greatest challenge in your career? Probably myself! I love new challenges and always look for a way to improve myself. I’ve always said that when you are dealing with issues at work or in your life, the FIRST thing you should look at is yourself. The only thing you can control is yourself. Take the necessary steps to realize what you can improve on and a lot of times that will perpetuate to others. 

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I’m pretty much an open book. My story is the same as many others like myself. I was abandoned at birth, in a park, found by a Korean woman who named me after herself, took me to an orphanage where I was adopted by a family in rural Iowa at four months old. 

What is your favorite destination? I think it changes as I travel to new places. But I would like to explore more of southeast Asia. 

What's been your favorite or most memorable moment of your career so far? I was on one of our boats and met a passenger named Doris. I asked her where she lived and she replied with “Walla Walla,” the same town that my husband was from. She asked me his last name and I said that he hadn’t lived there in a long time, so she probably doesn’t know his family. She asked me again, and I replied, “Caldwell.” She paused for a moment and then said, “Was his mom’s name Carolyn?” I said, “yes, but she passed away when he was four years old.” She then informed me that she was Carolyn’s roommate in nursing school. I was a bit stunned, since my husband really didn’t know that much about his mother. Doris and I chatted (and cried) for a while about stories of Carolyn. Doris followed up and sent me pictures from their dorm room. Needless to say, it was a very special moment and one I won’t ever forget. 

How do you spend your free time? I like finding new experiences… like going to a show or trying a new coffee shop. But if you’d ask anyone else, they would tell you that I like to go to Vegas to go dancing!

What has ABA membership meant to you both personally and professionally? Include relationships developed through attendance at conferences and/or participation and volunteer activities in your affiliate, section, and committees. Also, please provide any reason(s) why you recommend membership to others. Captain Bob Avila from Captain John Boats walked up to our booth, at another conference, and started a conversation with me as he noticed I worked in the boating industry. We saw each other again the following day and we made Sushi plans for that night. As we sat at dinner that evening, I found out his nephew lived a mile away from me, in Portland, and that we shopped at the same grocery. When I got home, I got to know his nephew (and his niece) and went camping with his nephew as he started dating one of my good friends. Small world. The other part of the story is that Captain Bob introduced me to Pete Pantuso. He also talked to my boss about why we should join ABA. The rest is history. Carol Ross from Portland Rose Festival has also been my ABA mentor. She got me into volunteering at Marketplace in Charlotte and then again in Louisville. It was a great way to meet and help other members. She’s been my go-to person for any ABA acronym help!    

I am excited to be part of the Marketplace Advisory Committee and a contributor to the Environmental Committee (I am a 5-year owner of an 100 percent electric car and love it!). Buses are so important to a conference! That bus ride to and from events is the most “intimate” time to meet another person! You can’t get up, you have a time limit, and it’s a no-pressure situation. It is the best unintentional 20-minute meeting that you can get.

Please email this form, along with a picture to be included on ABA’s publications, to Lia Zegeye, Sr. Director of Membership at lzegeye@buses.org.

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
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