Two Haines Borough department heads and one administrative employee are vacating their positions within the next month, and a fourth department head is considering a job offer elsewhere. At least one position will remain temporarily vacant.

Haines Borough planner Holly Smith and executive assistant to the manager, Krista Kielsmeier, have submitted notices of resignation to the borough manager and will vacate their positions this month.

Public facilities director Brad Ryan has not yet formally resigned, but is expected to accept the Skagway Borough manager position pending its assembly approval on Aug. 1. If approved, Ryan would begin a $125,000 two-year contract on Sept. 1.

Police Chief Heath Scott is the lone applicant being considered for chief of police in Wrangell, where he visited this month for an in-person interview. In May, he was a shortlisted applicant for campus police chief at University of Alaska Anchorage, though budget cuts have stalled the hiring process.

Scott’s three-year contract with the borough was up July 20. He is in contract negotiations with borough manager Debra Schnabel.

Smith, who is resigning Aug. 2 after three years in her position, will move to the west coast with her partner. Her position has been advertised on the borough website since May, and has drawn only three applicants. Schnabel offered the position to one of two applicants on July 24, but the applicant turned the position down days later.

Schnabel said she doesn’t believe the handful of departures from the borough speak to a larger trend, but that Haines’ “non-competitive” wages might explain a lack of interest in the planning position—the only vacant position currently advertised.

“I think this is all very coincidental that all of this turnover is happening at one time,” she said. “The thing that concerns me most is that our salaries- if they attract great people- it’s because those people are motivated for personal reasons to take the position. Each one of those people didn’t come to the job just for a job, they brought a lot more to it.”

The borough is advertising the planner position between $45,000 and $52,000 annually. Sitka pays a similar position $55,973. Skagway, Petersburg and Wrangell do not have planning positions, but instead have permitting officials or economic development departments.

In Soldotna, a listed associate planner position is advertised at a beginning wage of $28 an hour, which is $4 above Smith’s hourly range in Haines after three years.

“If we don’t get any bites, we’ll have to make some kind of adjustments,” Schnabel said. “I don’t want to adjust the job down. I don’t want the second best,” Schnabel said.

Smith’s work at the Haines Borough has brought the town from the 1950’s to the present day, Schnabel said.

A project many colleagues in the administration and planning commission pointed to as a testament to the value of Smith’s work is the Haines parcel viewer. The online platform allows people to view satellite images of the Chilkat Valley with property lines, which staff say is important for assessment, taxation and neighborhood development.

Longtime planning commissioner Rob Goldberg said he doesn’t know how the commission managed to get by before Smith arrived, and he doesn’t know how they’ll manage after.

“Holly brought a level of professionalism and competence to the job that we hadn’t had before. She was good at finding inconsistencies in land-use code and writing ordinances to close those loopholes,” Goldberg said. “I don’t think a lot of new work is going to get done. It’s going to be dealing with conditional use permits that come in and the nuts and bolts come in until a new planner comes.”

In 2018, the borough hired Savannah Maidy as a planning technician that will carry on basic planning tasks, such as enforcement issues, while the borough waits to for interest in the planning position.

Kielsmeier will leave her position at the borough on Aug. 30 after seven years assisting the public facilities director in grant administration. She will pursue a master’s degree in project management at University of Limerick in Ireland. Kielsmeier said she didn’t feel she had the opportunity to move up in the administration.

Her position will be re-evaluated by the manager, who said rewriting the job duties to highlight grants administration will be more accurate, and then listed on the borough website within a week.