March 29, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 13

Earnest to leave June 15

Staff turnover reached the top of the Haines Borough this week, as manager Mark Earnest submitted his resignation, effective June 15.

“We’re getting good at changing managers, and I don’t want it to be taken lightly,” said Daymond Hoffman of the Haines Borough Assembly. “I think we really need to find out, from Mark, what we can do better, what we can do to be a better assembly, what we can do to help staff help the next manager.”

The move follows the resignations of harbormaster Ed Barrett and public facilities director Brian Lemcke in the past month.

“Everything will be taken care of,” said Mayor Stephanie Scott. “Nothing is going to come to a grinding halt.”

The assembly in January approved an 18-month contract extension and 2 percent pay raise for Earnest through July 2013 that would have paid him $108,120 annually. Earnest has been manager since January 2010.

“I wanted to really just clarify and say that I fully intended to retire in 2013, and I just felt that I really wanted to spend more time with family, so I’ve just accelerated that retirement date up a year,” Earnest said Tuesday.

Earnest said he is facing the “very wonderful, unique situation” of looking for a school for his 9-year-old son, Matthew, who is studying calculus and physics.

Earnest in his March 26 resignation letter said he would leave his position at the beginning of June, but his departure was pushed back to June 15 on the recommendation of assembly member Debra Schnabel. The budget must be adopted by that date, according to borough charter, and Earnest said he plans to stay in Haines at least until August.

“I am quite concerned about the immediate future of the construction projects that we have, and recognizing, also, it takes two to three years to bring a project on board,” Schnabel said. “As Mark has already pointed out, what we are looking at this year is the fruit of work that was done a couple of years ago.”

Assemblyman Norm Smith referred to the upcoming harbormaster and public facilities director vacancies, and openings for a planning and zoning technician and executive assistant to the manager and asked if the borough should delay hires until the next manager is in place.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the borough, I don’t think it’s fair to the staff, to leave those positions unfilled,” Earnest said.

He said filling high-ranking positions would be a collaborative process, subject to assembly confirmation. A decision on the executive assistant would be left to the new manager, to ensure compatibility.

“I don’t see any problem with filling those other positions,” said assemblyman Jerry Lapp. “We’re going to be in the loop with that.”

Earnest recommended advertising the manager position “at the earliest opportunity” because “this is necessarily a long process.” He also suggested appointing an interim manager from borough staff and keeping the process used for his hire.

Borough clerk Julie Cozzi said the selection of Earnest as manager included phone and in-person interviews, a meeting with the assembly that was open to the public and Earnest conducting a management team meeting.

Mayor Scott told the Chilkat Valley News this week she would like a permanent manager in place by September. “We might be full of local interims while we’re waiting.”

She said residents have “a vested interest” in the community and are aware of borough priorities and upcoming projects.

Scott said one transition plan would name clerk Cozzi as interim manager and deputy clerk Jamie Heinz as interim clerk.

Schnabel said the assembly shouldn’t feel locked in to the idea of appointing an interim manager, as a permanent replacement might be available by June. “There may be a wonderful manager who is residing within this community who will make an application, and people will say, ‘Oh, my goodness, I had no idea we had such a person in our midst,’” she said.