Borough manager Mark Earnest has offered the tourism director position to a 2001 University of Alaska-Southeast graduate who worked as a naturalist for Holland America.
Tanya Carlson, a product developer at Holiday Vacations in Eau Claire, Wis., attended a Dec. 20 meet-and-greet at the Haines Borough Public Library as one of three finalists for the position, and Earnest selected her as the preferred candidate.
"We’re still in negotiations," Earnest said Tuesday. "She’s actually traveling right now, so I don’t have anything official yet. We have made an offer, and we’re still having some discussion."
He said Carlson has been offered a salary of $19.71 an hour, or about $41,000 a year. Former tourism director Lori Stepansky, who resigned effective Oct. 1 after six years on the job, most recently was paid $45,157 annually. The borough had advertised the position with a starting wage of $18.81 per hour.
Earnest said moving expenses have been one area of discussion following the job offer to Carlson.
In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the Chilkat Valley News, Carlson said she was "still looking at a couple of items but am very much interested in the position."
"I am currently out of the country but will make my final decision very soon," Carlson wrote.
The borough’s Tourism Advisory Board earlier gave Carlson its top endorsement.
Nine applications had been submitted as of a mid-October deadline. The other finalists were Adam Patterson, operations manager for Takshanuk Mountain Trail; and Ross Silkman, sales manager for Alaska Wildland Adventures in Girdwood. Patterson was out of town for the meet-and-greet.
"I thought both of the candidates who were there were exceptionally qualified and it was a very, very difficult decision to make, because they were both very qualified, and either one would have brought a lot to the position," Earnest said.
He credited Carlson’s experience in tourism and her contacts with the Alaskan cruise ship industry.
At Holiday Vacations, Carlson has researched and developed "new tours for group travel around the world with specific focus on cruises and Alaska," according to her online resume.
She studied marine biology and communications at the University of Alaska-Southeast.
Earnest said Carlson would need to provide a 30-day notice at her current job before making a move to Haines.
The Haines Borough Assembly on Dec. 28 approved the offer to Carlson, with member Greg Goodman voting in opposition.
"I ran on this," said Goodman, who was elected to the assembly in October. "I said that I wanted to see more economic development and that I did not want to see a person hired as ‘tourism director.’ It’s not that I don’t think she’s qualified but, because it’s a promise, I think I’m going to have to vote against it."
Earnest said the borough’s comprehensive plan would address funding for economic development and tourism.
"I think we need to have a good discussion about what economic development means, because it’s not just tourism," said member Steve Vick.
Earnest said Carlson could fill a range of roles in the borough.
"There are some areas where her background and skills would be very helpful in expanding the efforts to develop new opportunities in Haines that I think will be very helpful in promoting economic development," he said.