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


Assembly leans toward Sosa hire


The Haines Borough Assembly isn’t ready to offer the job to manager candidate David Sosa just yet.

After coming out of executive session Tuesday, the assembly voted unanimously to call additional references provided by Sosa and ask him to provide a “community interface scenario” he has encountered outside of the military. Sosa has worked as a U.S. Marine Corps officer for 20 years.

The assembly also voted 5-0 to discontinue pursuing Susan Jensen as a manager candidate based on an interview Mayor Stephanie Scott and assembly members George Campbell and Diana Lapham conducted with her at the Alaska Municipal League conference in Anchorage.

The assembly will notify Sosa whether he has the job or not by Dec. 18.

In interviews after the meeting, assembly members described the “community interface scenario” as a way to gather information about how Sosa operates in a non-military setting.

For example, if Sosa reports he has worked with school boards, advisory boards or some other municipal organization in the past, borough staff will call those organizations to see how Sosa interacted with them.

Sosa’s lack of municipal management experience has emerged as the main criticism from the community, said assembly member Debra Schnabel, and digging into Sosa’s interactions with non-military entities should shine some light on how he would respond to people in a municipal setting.

“We need to find some kind of a venue that is non-military, because the guy has spent 20 years of his professional life in the military... We’re trying to create an inquiry into some experiences that would demonstrate that he has the skills or the perceptions that we think are embodied in the municipal administrative experience,” she said.

The assembly publicly interviewed Sosa Dec. 5, and borough workers and assembly members appeared convinced that Sosa was their man. In an interview Tuesday, Scott said if it were up to her, she would hire Sosa right now.

“I believe that we have seen what we want in a manager. I think that he embodies the planning, the decision-making, the precision as well as the flexibility, the awareness of the need to be committed to the community and to be a part of the community... We struggled to articulate what we want in a manager, and I think we saw it,” Scott said.

Campbell said in an interview Tuesday he is also ready to hire Sosa, and that he saw nothing about the manager candidate that made him think that Sosa wouldn’t succeed in the job.

“You don’t have to be an expert in every field to be a good manager. You have to be able to identify who your experts are and utilize them to help you, and I think he has that ability,” Campbell said.

Assembly member Joanne Waterman said in an interview Wednesday that while her “overall impression” of Sosa was “good,” she still wants to do more research.

“I want more information. I definitely think that it is worth pursuing more information,” Waterman said.

Sosa is not available to start work until April.

During the Dec. 5 interview, Sosa fielded a pre-determined set of questions from the assembly for an hour-and-a-half. He spoke about his management style, budgeting experience and what he believes his greatest challenge would be working in Haines.

A post-interview reception at the library gave the public a chance to interact with Sosa one-on-one. 

Sosa holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science but has never worked for a municipality or lived in Alaska.

The assembly paid to have Sosa bring his wife along for the trip. He also brought his daughter, which the assembly did not pay for.

In addition to the assembly interview and public reception, Sosa also toured the borough’s public facilities and held a staff meeting so employees could observe his management style.