The Haines Borough Assembly’s Personnel Committee reduced the list of manager applicants from 31 to 12 during a meeting held in executive session on Monday. The list includes four locals—interim manager and clerk Alekka Fullerton, former manager Debra SchnabelHaines Borough school board member Brian Clay and new resident Michael York.

By the Feb. 26 application deadline, the borough had received 11 directly and 20 through a third-party employment website. The Personnel Committee’s task on Monday was to weed out unqualified applicants who submitted via the website.

“There was only one of the twenty that we reviewed yesterday that we thought was potentially qualified,” Rogers said in an interview Tuesday. He said he was surprised by the lack of quality applicants who applied via the employment website. “It resulted in a lot of people who had various training, experience and education that wasn’t necessarily related to a borough manager-type position.”

The 12 applicants will be reviewed by the full assembly during an executive session committee of the whole meeting on Monday. 

Local applicants listed a range of motivations for applying for the position. Fullerton cited a sense of duty.

“I was moved to apply by staff. So many staff members have had so many managers and had to learn new ways of doing things each time, what feels like constantly,” Fullerton said. “A number of them have been lobbying me to apply.”.

Fullerton has worked for the borough since 2016, serving as deputy clerk and then as clerk. In May 2020, she was appointed interim manager after the assembly abruptly fired then-manager Debra Schnabel. Before her time with the Haines Borough, Fullerton worked as a lawyer and mediator in California.

Schnabel has also applied. In an interview Tuesday, she said she had initially decided against applying for her former position, but changed her mind as the deadline approached.

“I wasn’t going to apply because I was terminated and thought, ‘It’s obvious that there are those who don’t want me.’ But it’s a new assembly, and there are new perspectives and insights. It’s been nine months and I have worked through a lot. I want to have that conversation with the assembly, and see whether or not we’re a match,” Schnabel said.

Schnabel served as manager from June 2017 until May 2020. She was terminated by the assembly without cause after refusing to resign at the request of Rogers during a private meeting in her office. At the time, Rogers cited her inability to work with and take direction from the assembly as the reason for asking her to resign. Two of the three assembly members, who voted to fire Schnabel in the 3-3 tie broken by then-Mayor Jan Hill, remain in office—Rogers and Gabe Thomas. During Schnabel’s firing, numerous members of the public, including several borough employees, spoke in opposition, urging the assembly to give her an evaluation and an opportunity to improve.

Schnabel said she hopes to receive an interview and views it as a chance to discuss how the assembly views the manager’s role..

Clay, who currently works at Big Foot Auto and serves on the school board and Haines Borough Volunteer Fire Department, said he applied because he thinks his knowledge of the community as a lifelong resident will be an asset during what promises to be a difficult year.

“Living here locally has its benefits because you go in knowing the borough’s priorities—what everyone wants. You can’t have everything, so you’ve got to figure out how to prioritize,” Clay said.

He said he’s applied for the position at least one other time. He said he didn’t receive an interview then but hopes he will be considered more seriously this time.

York is a new arrival. He moved to Haines with his family in mid-February, a goal he said he’s had since he first passed through town seven years ago on his way to Juneau. York, who until recently was working as a manager of multiple departments for B2Gnow Software, said he decided to apply because he thinks the job will be a good fit for his diverse skill set and an opportunity to become involved with his new community.

“It looked like a challenge. It looked like it had a lot of diverse facets, and I thought that would be something that I would enjoy,” York said, adding, “Being able to work in the community, rather than feeling like I’m based outside of the community is a lot more appealing.”

York has an eclectic background. In addition to having worked at B2Gnow Software, he has worked as a law clerk, an advertising and marketing director for a tourism company and a general manager at an eco-resort in Cambodia.

The other eight applicants include: former Seward city manager Scott Meszaros, who was discharged from the position after the most recent city council election and has 20 years of experience serving in local government; Moe Zamarron, current facilities manager for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum with a background in public works and capital projects management in Alaska; Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation controller Alyson Kelly, with a background in finance and administration in the private sector; New York resident Jeremy Marshall, the current director of veteran services for Ontario County; Fairbanks resident Robert Rouse, a contractor for the Department of Defense, specializing in quality control and construction inspection; Tennessee resident and real estate investor George Zoukee, who has a background in public sector finance management; general manager for transportation operator Keolis, Abul Hassan, with a background in municipal transit management; and Wasilla-based architect Brian McMillen.

Rogers said the assembly’s goal at its upcoming meeting is to narrow down the list to five or six applicants to interview. From these, the assembly will select at most three applicants for in-person interviews before reaching a final decision.