Holly Canevari began her tenure as TSA’s Deputy Administrator (DADM) with the wind at her back, having a push of confidence from her well-known strong collaborative reputation she upholds from her work as TSA’s Chief of Staff. She owes that favorable position to her decades-long work immersed in aviation and homeland security policy, along with her honest desire to build partnerships while seeking mutually agreeable solutions.
As DADM, the fourth person to hold the official position in Administrator David Pekoske’s tenure, Canevari stepped into overseeing the agency’s day-to-day operations with a solid track record of relationship building domestically and internationally. A common thread of her leadership style is the notion of partnerships – the high value she places on them, the skill with which she builds them and the shared sense of mission she engenders in people through her genuine interactions.
“You may have heard the phrase ‘they never met a stranger,’” said Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) Federal Security Director Kriste Jordan Smith. “When it comes to Holly, I think ‘she never met a non-partner.’ She is constantly on the hunt for mutual wins with everyone. She leads in a way that unleashes talent and teamwork.”
Jordan Smith recounted a DFW field visit from Canevari as being an emotional morale boost.
“She left the workforce with a huge wake of excited commitment,” said Smith. “They felt heard, deeply respected, and she renewed their optimism about TSA’s future.”
Alaska Federal Security Director Peter Duffy recounted the same “people first” sentiment after Canevari’s recent visit to his state.
“DADM Canevari’s presence, openness and authenticity resonated with me and all of Team Alaska,” said Duffy. “Several employees shared with me their appreciation of her, specifically noting how approachable she is. Holly demonstrated that being available and ensuring those you lead are heard is incredibly impactful.”
Duffy’s praise isn’t lip service. It’s justified because Canevari understands the mission.
“Our adversaries are dynamic, and it takes all of us working together to effectively address emerging threats and ensure the security of the transportation system,” said Canevari. “TSA can only be successful through strong collaboration with our many valued partners, from our very own workforce to industry and our interagency partners.”
In building partnerships, Canevari’s attentiveness during field visits has earned her the respect of her colleagues. To drive home that point, TSA Representative Katie Logisz recalled a trip Canevari took to Europe.
“Holly traveled to the Netherlands in March as a part of a very large TSA delegation to the Passenger Terminal Expo,” said Logisz. “During this visit Holly met with our Dutch government counterparts, key interlocutors at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and she visited with the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague.
“What we really appreciated was her partnership, collegiality and her real interest in our work. Right off the bat, Holly wanted to know what our office priorities were and where she could help. Leading up to the trip and throughout the visit she was asking questions – not just about the subject matter but about context and the nuances for key international issues. She wanted to ensure that the International Operations Europe team was getting all that was needed out of her visits and her engagements, and she wanted to understand issues that maybe don’t always translate through briefing memos to bring information back to the front office.”
Through all of her interactions, Canevari exudes TSA’s core values of integrity, respect and commitment by her preparation and willingness to listen with an open mind and try new approaches to difficult problems.
“Holly’s flexibility and willingness to work seamlessly with the field is highly valued,” said TSA Representative Holly Bolger. “Smart, thoughtful, inquisitive, relatable and down-to-earth are adjectives that describe Holly’s approach and interactions with both our domestic and international partners.”
Jordan Smith expressed her admiration for Canevari’s holistic leadership approach.
“Holly and I have talked candidly about managing the time pressures of important TSA work alongside precious family life,” said Jordan Smith. “The way she thinks about balance reflects how she honors the humanity in our system. She deeply values doing the best we can with what we have, trying a new approach to address a vexing challenge, and trying to muster a bit more compassion for ourselves.”
Canevari is excited about continuing to enhance aviation security through partnerships at TSA.
“I look forward to advancing the efforts of my predecessors and continuing to support our people, and building upon and leveraging our strong partnerships to achieve TSA’s critical security mission,” pledged Canevari.
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs