Coast Guard captain ends long Ore.-Wash. commute

ASTORIA — For four years, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Len Tumbarello has had a very long commute.

Every weekend, he's come home to Astoria from Seattle to see his family — wife Holly and daughters Angela, 18, and Chelsea, 16, and his son Tony, 7.

That was because until recently, Tumbarello was the deputy commander — the second person in charge — for the Coast Guard's Sector Seattle, overseeing and managing more than 700 active duty, reserve, civilian and auxiliary personnel.

"I've been a 'geographic bachelor', coming back on weekends, and that's been a taxing thing," he said.

But that was last week, before big news shook up the regional Coast Guard command structure.

News broke that Capt. Fredrick G. Myer, who was slated to fill a key role in Astoria in late August, was relieved from his duties as commander of the Coast Guard's Sector Portland because of alleged misconduct. Coast Guard leaders believe Myer looked at pornography websites on a government computer, a violation of military regulations.

Myer's next stop was to become the deputy sector commander for the Coast Guard's new Sector Columbia River, a change that will concentrate more leadership at the mouth of the river and shift it away from Portland.

Tumbarello was offered the job and didn't hesitate at the chance to move home a full two years earlier than he'd expected.

He's currently working in Myer's old role in Portland until a new leader, already scheduled to start work in August, comes to take his place.

Then he'll head back to Astoria, a place he was first assigned with the Coast Guard in 1994 when he served as the operations officer onboard the Cutter Steadfast until 1997. During his tour on the cutter, he coordinated and directed law enforcement patrols off the coast of Mexico, among other duties.

It was then that the Tumbarello family found the area to be a special place — one that they'd choose as their permanent home a few years later.

"It's a fantastic place to raise a family. I've been in Seattle and Portland and dealt with the craziness there," Tumbarello said. Here, things are close to get to, and traffic is rarely an issue, he said. And because it's a small town it is easier to get involved in the community.

"I like being involved in this community, rather than being another number," he said.

In 1997, Tumbarello was chosen to be the surface operations officer at Group North Bend in Oregon. During his tenure there, he supervised stations Yaquina Bay, Umpqua River, Coos Bay and Chetco River until the summer of 2000. Even though they'd moved away from the Astoria area, the family maintained strong connections with many local families, and Tumbarello was able to return to the area as Group Astoria's surface operations officer in Warrenton from 2000 until 2002.

From 2002 to 2006, Tumbarello served as the assistant chief of the Atlantic Area/District Five Office of Incident Management in Portsmouth, Va. In that position, Tumbarello managed four Coast Guard sectors, two sector field offices, two air stations and 37 stations.

And then Tumbarello returned to the Pacific Northwest as the Sector Seattle Response Chief from 2006 to 2008 and oversaw all aspects of ports, waterways and coastal security, law enforcement, search and rescue, pollution response and investigation for the entire Puget Sound Captain of the Port zone.

Tumbarello's family, however, didn't make that move with him. They chose to come back to Astoria so the two oldest children could attend Astoria High School for all four years. As a Coast Guard family, you move around every three to four years, and it can be difficult to grow roots outside of the Coast Guard community, Tumbarello said.

"We have lifelong friends here outside of the Coast Guard," he said.

Holly Tumbarello works at Clatsop Community College for the Nursing Program, and the kids are very involved in sports, Tumbarello said.

He's also looking forward to working again with Capt. Doug Kaup, the commander of Group/Air Station Astoria, who will be the commander of the geographically larger Sector Columbia River. Tumbarello's experience on cutters and patrol boats and with the maritime industry will complement Kaup's decades of experience as a pilot, he said. The two worked together at Station North Bend between 1997 and 2000.

Since he's worked in other sectors throughout the country, he's confident that this region's transition to what's become a standard nationwide will be a smooth one.

"It'll be a cultural change, but it'll work just fine," Tumbarello said.

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