The Haines Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to hire public facilities director Brad Ryan as interim manager, though details of the offer have yet to be worked out.

Ryan said in an interview Wednesday he was “shocked” the assembly decided to hire him so abruptly. “I just thought there was a process lined out that they were going to interview a couple of candidates and then make a decision,” he said.

Ryan said he spoke with acting manager Julie Cozzi following the vote and they decided the most appropriate route forward is for Cozzi and the assembly to come back to Ryan with a firm offer of terms, a timeframe for the job, and other details.

The assembly’s Personnel Committee on Dec. 11 recommended Ryan and applicant Deborah Schwartz of Little Rock, Ark., as finalists for the interim manager position. The committee chose Ryan and Schwartz from a pool of seven candidates who met the application deadline.

At Tuesday’s meeting, assembly member Tresham Gregg tried to make a motion for Ryan to come on as acting manager effective immediately. That motion was subsequently tweaked to a Jan. 2 start date.

“We need as a community to embrace ourselves as competent people capable of developing our future ourselves. We have to trust each other and work together,” Gregg said. “What could be better than having our manager come through the ranks of local enterprise and nonprofits and be already a borough employee doing good work? I don’t really think it gets much better than that.”

Assembly member Mike Case agreed with Gregg’s arguments about Ryan’s merits, saying Ryan would require a shorter learning curve than someone arriving from Outside. “It just seems to be a really good move for us,” Case said.

Acting manager Cozzi pointed out that according to code, the hire of borough officers requires the assembly to shortlist and interview applicants. Cozzi said she interpreted an interim hire as falling under that provision.

After assembly member Diana Lapham said she supported Gregg’s sentiment but wanted to be sure to follow code, assembly member Ron Jackson pointed out that the assembly could just vote to shortlist the candidates to one – Ryan – and be in compliance.

The assembly voted 5-1 to shortlist Ryan, with assembly member George Campbell opposed, but ultimately voted unanimously to hire Ryan with a Jan. 2 start date.

There was talk of interviewing Ryan in order to comply with code, but that idea was never voted on.

Ryan said he will likely recommend the assembly not fill the public facilities director job while he serves as interim. Ryan will continue with some of those job duties, but departments like public works and water/sewer are clicking along and don’t need much help, he said.

Ryan said the assembly’s decision not to interview him has its benefits and drawbacks. “Obviously, it made it easier for me on some level because I don’t have to interview and compete with other candidates, but on the flip side, interviews are valuable because you can air your biases and opinions on the position you’re applying for.”

Ryan speculated that the assembly likely felt comfortable hiring him without an interview because of his extensive interactions with them as public facilities director.  

“I’m looking forward to it, but I’m nervous, of course. I really need the support of the staff to be successful. I hope we can make that happen first and foremost,” he said.

Before becoming public facilities director, Ryan worked as executive director of the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition. He has also worked for Takshanuk Watershed Council, Chilkoot Indian Association and NOAA. He has a PhD in environmental science and a bachelor’s degree in biology.

Schwartz, the other finalist recommended by the personnel committee, has worked as an executive director, manager and company president in the aviation industry since 1986.