Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Assembly OKs 10K pay hike for harbormaster


May 13, 2010

The Haines Borough Assembly Friday May 7 gave the borough manager the go-ahead to increase harbormaster pay by up to $10,000 to attract the borough’s top candidate, currently harbormaster in Whittier.

The borough budgeted $58,000 in wages for the harbormaster position this year, up from $55,000 it paid former harbormaster Christian Racich. The assembly’s okay gives borough manager Mark Earnest the authority to offer a salary of $63,000 to $68,000.

Mark Earnest said he’d asked the borough’s boat harbor advisory committee to participate in the process, and said Whittier harbormaster Ed Barrett was selected by consensus of the group.

Barrett was chosen over local candidates Ken Gross, Ellie Braaten, and assistant harbormaster Joe Parnell.

Boat harbor advisory committee member and commercial fisherman Norman Hughes said Barrett scored highest among the candidates based on predetermined hiring criteria.

Hughes supported the pay raise, with conditions. "It’s worth it if he gets us a new harbor. We need someone in there who will push these projects forward."

The boat harbor committee has been working on revisions to borough code that will expand the habormaster’s authority and duties.

Barrett has been Whittier’s harbormaster since December 2007, and worked 12 years as co-harbormaster at Friday Harbor, Wash ., a 500-slip harbor and busy pleasure boat dock. He worked under a port director there.

Harbormaster Tammi Hayes, who shared the job with Barrett in Friday Harbor but now works solo, this week described him as "diligent," "devoted" and "good at managing multiple departments."

"He was good with policy and procedures and he was very fair," Hayes said. Barrett oversaw replacing docks and floats, but no expansion of the harbor was done during his tenure, Hayes said.

Earnest said he worked with Barrett in Whittier, when Barrett oversaw navigation improvements for the head of Passage Canal, major repairs to harbor infrastructure, and construction of a three-lane boat launch and boarding float.

He also assisted managing grants and projects for capital construction outside the harbor when the city was short-staffed, Earnest said.

Barrett is a member and former president of the Pacific Coast Congress of Harbormasters and Port Managers, a 150-member group based in Olympia, Wash.

Earnest said he thought the borough was within $5,000 to $10,000 of being able to attract Barrettt, and the assembly was unanimous in its approval of the wage hike.

Racich cited pay among his reasons for leaving the job last month. Low pay also was an issue for former harbormaster Phil Benner, who left Haines for a job as Juneau’s harbormaster.

A higher salary would have to be resolved with the borough employees’ union, Earnest said.

In his rationale for requesting more pay, Earnest said the borough needed to have a highly qualified administrator to oversee expansion of the Small Boat Harbor basin and upgrades to the Lutak Dock facilities.

Those two projects top the borough’s list of priorities for federal funding and for economic development identified in the comprehensive plan.

In making the hire, Earnest said he drew on his own experiences with $100 million in ports and harbor projects during his tenure as manager of Dutch Harbor, Whittier, and Bethel.

"I know what’s involved, how complex and how time consuming, and how much energy and experience and knowledge is required. I know how the process works. It will require a team of professional administrators from ports and harbors, public facilities and the manager…to move this process forth."

Assemblyman Steve Vick commended Earnest for including the boat harbor advisory committee in the interview process.

Assemblyman Daymond Hoffman said he backed increasing salary for the harbormaster as "an investment in economic development for the borough."