Carlos H. Salas
Pacific region manager
By Grace Stark
When Carlos H. Salas graduated from Chaminade University of Honolulu, he didn’t expect to one day be running airports and seaports, or working in construction management. “I feel so fortunate to have had all of these experiences and opportunities in my career,” Salas says. “But the thing about success is that a lot of it is about luck and timing.”
Luck and timing are definitely a good thing to have on your side, but Salas, 59, also proved to have a knack for finding opportunities, and going after them. After graduating with a degree in political science with a concentration in business administration, Salas took odd jobs in sales before he began working for the Better Business Bureau of Honolulu.
When he began hearing about opportunities in the Northern Mariana Islands, he decided to make his next career move. “I wanted to keep my job search quiet, but when I printed my resume off at work, it turns out I accidentally printed two copies.” After finding the second copy on the printer, Salas’s boss approached him about it. “I promised she’d be the first to know if I was offered any new opportunities; as it turns out, the very next day, I had something to tell her,” he says.
Salas was offered a position in Saipan working for the Commonwealth Ports Authority. He worked his way up from administrative assistant to executive director, managing each airport and seaport in Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
His central passion, however, was in capital improvement projects. “My goal was to make it easier for businesses to operate in the CNMI, to facilitate more commerce in the region and ultimately benefit the people who live there.”
Salas oversaw such notable projects as the building of a new runway and terminal at the airport in Tinian, the renovation of the terminal at Saipan’s airport, the building of a new terminal at the airport in Rota, as well as the expansion and renovation of Saipan’s seaport and major maintenance on Rota’s seaport. Through all of these projects, Salas learned to work with various government agencies, the maritime and aviation industry and teams of contractors and engineers.
After retiring as executive director of the CPA in 2005, Salas stayed in Saipan for one more year as a consultant to help with the Authority’s transition to new leadership. In 2007, Salas moved to Guam.
From 2007 to 2010, Salas worked as the general manager of the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, and also on a project to modernize Guam’s seaport in anticipation of the military buildup.
In his current position as Pacific region manager for SSFM International, Salas enjoys the even broader reach he has for positive contributions through the major projects SSFM secures. “In this position, and with all of the friendships I’ve made in the region over the years, it’s easier to help out in whatever way I can,” Salas says.
Salas credits much of his career success to both his father’s influence and his education at Father Duenas Memorial School, from which he graduated in 1976. “My father always taught me to ‘stay the course’ when challenges arise, and FD had a big impact on how I carry myself,” Salas says. “It instilled in me strong family values and resilience — to always get back up after I fall.” He still keeps up with the friends he made at FD, citing the FD alumni network as one of his favorite things about living on Guam.
Salas’s son, 16-year-old Brentt, now attends FD. He also represents Guam in junior golf tournaments around the world, which Salas attends. It’s a tradition that the whole family has grown to cherish, and one that’s deepened their love of golf. Salas also volunteers as a board member for the Guam National Golf Federation, overseeing the Guam Junior Golfer Program.
Salas enjoys living on Guam and feels at home on the island. He also relishes the challenges and the competition of working in a bigger market. “Throughout my career, I’ve never had time to think, ‘Am I in the right place?’ There’s always a new project, a new challenge — and I get excited about figuring out how to solve problems.”