Finding Home in Mobile: How Captain Joseph Snowden Navigated the Transition from Military to Civilian Life.
Captain Joseph Snowden, USCG, Ret. currently serves as the Executive Director of Administrative Services for the City of Mobile. He’s also had a very successful military career, serving in the U.S. Coast Guard for 27 years before retiring with his family in Mobile, AL.
Learn more about his story and the circumstances that helped him transition to civilian life.
*Answers have been edited for clarity
Describe your current job and how your military experience translates into this role.
“I am currently the Executive Director of Administrative Services for the City of Mobile. That means I am responsible for overseeing the operations within the:
- IT department
- Human resources
- Animal services
- Mass transit ‘The Wave’
- On-street parking
- Cruise ship terminal
- Civic and cultural affairs
The military prepared me to lead diverse groups with multi-missions and help those groups prioritize their goals and objectives and give them the proper tools and guidance they need to be successful.”
Can you describe how the transition was for you retiring into civilian life and how you ended up where you are now?
“It was actually a very easy transition. I worked a lot with the maritime and international industries when I was in the Coast Guard. Only, instead of wearing a Coast Guard uniform I now wear a suit.
I use a lot of the skills that I learned and fine-tuned in the military such as multi-communication, the ability to write well and to build networks in my civilian role. It helped me easily transition when I retired. When I initially retired, I worked for about a year at Spring Hill College on their financial budget. I had learned and fine-tuned my financial skills when I worked for Homeland Security. After working at the college, the mayor asked me to oversee the cruise ship terminal. That job easily fits within my 27 years’ worth of maritime experience working with vessels and commercial vessels.”
Where do you consider to be your hometown?
“I grew up in a place called Zion, IL. My dad is retired Navy, so he retired from the Great Lakes Naval base. I went to high school in Zion and went to college at Western Illinois University.
My dad said I had four opportunities to go to college and pay for it myself and that was the Army, Navy, Air Force or the Marines. I had to pick one.
So, I enlisted in the Army National Guard and then paid my way through college. I was also an ROTC, and I became a Second Lieutenant in the Army. Then upon graduation, I was allowed to transfer my commission over from the Army to the Coast Guard.”
How did you end up in Mobile?
“I was assigned here as the deputy sector commander, and after two years, I was granted the opportunity to gain command of Sector Mobile. So, I became Captain of the port there for two years. At the end of those two years, I was given my orders to go to Cleveland, OH, and my family said, ‘no.’ (He chuckled). So, the very next day I turned in my orders and retired. I had made a promise to my daughter that I would never pull her out of high school. I had also told my wife that she could make the call when she was ready to grow roots. So, after over 20 years of service, she said it was time to retire. I turned in my letter after that.”
Can you describe how living in Mobile has been for you?
“It has been phenomenal. We have been here about eight years and just like I said, the ability to grow roots and to establish a network of friends and other professionals has been phenomenal. After moving and living in places for 11 months to four years, just to be able to have some stability allows you to grow and to have a little bit of peace.
At least you now have a home and Mobile has always had that feeling of home. The ability to have good neighbors and start building long-term relationships has been phenomenal. Having good administration under the mayor here has been fantastic and the ability to work with these folks here has been phenomenal. It’s just nice to call some place home.”
What advice would you give someone who is about to come out of the military or is thinking about it?
“Never underestimate the power of your network. I was given opportunities here within Mobile because of the network I had established. People actively encouraged me to stay and actively sought employment for me in Mobile so that I would stay. So, the one bit of advice I have is to establish your network and keep it healthy. Make sure you have a reputation of being honest and hardworking and that will precede you.”
If you were to talk to someone who is about to come out of the military, has never been stationed in Mobile or doesn’t know anyone here. Would you say that there are good resources for them to tap into to start establishing that network?
“I do. A lot of them already kind of do that instinctively. Before you get stationed in any new place you tend to get on the Facebook pages and websites and reach out and try to get that information that you need. Like:
- Where are the best places to live?
- Where are the jobs at?
- What are the good schools?
I think that Mobile has a lot of those sites readily available. Plus, we have an active, strong veteran network here too. If people just reach out, they’ll get what they need.”
Is there anything else that you would like to add or any other message that you would like to share?
“Yeah, the one thing I would really like to add is that if you are in the military, any branch that you are in, you belong to a very select alumni and there are people here that are willing to do anything to make your transition successful. So, I would look for military officer associations like MOA, USAA and American Legion. Any kind of military veteran group has people ready to help. Also, the Veteran’s Resource Center is great if you have any mental health issues or anything that you need to deal with. I mean they are readily available and on standby, you just have to be willing to reach out and ask for it.”
Is there anything else that you wanted to add?
“I just think that the City of Mobile is very veteran-friendly. One thing I can truly say is that I’m impressed with the Veteran’s Day celebration and how much time and effort is put in by the city and other organizations to make that a very successful day. I mean the mayor has even established myself as the military liaison in Veterans Affairs to just strictly deal with that day. He has also tasked me to ensure that we maintain our Coast Guard City certification. Mobile is one of only 29 cities in the United States to have that certification. We have to get re-certified every five years and in that application for re-certification we have to demonstrate how the city actively helps the Coast Guard.”
Thank you, Mr. Snowden, for taking the time to sit down with the Chamber and tell your story.
About the Mobile Chamber
The Mobile Chamber is a private business organization with more than 1,700 members and the economic developer for the City of Mobile and Mobile County. The Mobile Chamber’s focus is to provide members with networking, marketing and professional development opportunities, expand jobs in the area, develop the local workforce, advocate legislative priorities and offer resources to help small businesses grow. Additional information is on the Chamber’s website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.