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

Borough manager finalists are Schnabel, Ryan


The final two local Haines Borough manager applicants both stressed their abilities to bring people together and curb controversy in borough politics during their preliminary interviews with the assembly.

The assembly Friday asked four questions to in-town applicants Debra Schnabel and interim borough manager Brad Ryan, as well as out-of-town applicant Robert Jordan. It voted to continue the interview process with only Ryan and Schnabel during Tuesday’s assembly meeting.

Working for the Haines Borough as director of public facilities, Ryan has filled in as interim manager twice during the past year as the borough deals with manager turnover.

Although he didn’t apply for the position during the last hiring round, he said he now wanted the job so he could provide consistency.

“(Turnover) makes the relationships very, very challenging,” Ryan said. “I feel like if I’m not willing to step up and try to bring stability to the organization, that position is not going to be successful if we don’t somehow hammer out this manager transition.”

Ryan said he believes he’s already demonstrated his ability to bring people together and give them a voice. He said he ensured multiple public meetings took place on the Portage Cove interpretive trail designs, as well as cleared up misinformation and controversy at a recent parks and recreation committee meeting when around 150 residents showed up with concerns about motorized use being mapped out of the valley.

“I truly believe I can help bring (people) together, to bring the controversy down, and make things happen in a smoother fashion,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he enjoys the budgeting process and that his previous experience reinvigorating struggling regional watershed councils qualifies him for the position.

Schnabel also stressed her ability to bring people together. She cited her long-standing history as a Haines resident and the multiple hats she’s worn during that time.

“I’ve looked at the borough as a government, as an organization from an employee, as a consultant and as an assembly member, so I’m very familiar with the borough and how it functions. But I still think my strongest attribute is my connection to the community,” Schnabel said.

Schnabel has a master’s degree in public administration and said she was exposed to administrative law, public interfacing, fiscal management and policy development. She said she’d use those skills and her ability to connect with people to build trust with staff and advance the dialogue when it comes to local politics.

“(Haines has) a reputation for being explosive, divisive, loud, opposing,” Schnabel said. “I don’t think it’s because we necessarily have that different of values, or what it is that we want from our community, but I think that we oftentimes fail to exercise our better nature…that’s one thing I would definitely do my best to exemplify, the better nature in behavior, in problem-solving and in issues that come up.”

Jordan, who lives in Michigan, worked as an assistant city manager in Unalaska and a borough manager of the Bristol Bay Borough. He also has a master’s degree in public administration.

He said his strengths lie in his experience working in remote Alaska, specifically helping the Bristol Bay Borough secure $7 million in general obligation bonds to expand the port in Naknek.

He also said he understands the funding challenges municipalities face across the state.

“At the local level is where people can easily see their tax dollars at work and you need to make sure you can make the most out of all of them,” Jordan said when asked about the purpose of local government. “And just to provide services; health, safety and welfare of the citizens (is) primary. Those are the three main components of local government.”

Jordan said building trust, and “backing up words with actions” with the staff, Mayor and assembly are critical in creating an effective team. He also stressed his role as manager is that of a neutral facilitator.

“I’m there to gather information and to educate the assembly objectively with no agenda, no particular direction, just educate you objectively and give you the information and help you make a decision,” Jordan said. “That’s my job.”

Borough staff and community members will have the option to ask questions of the candidates April 24 and the assembly will conduct a final interview on April 25 before making a final decision.


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