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

Tourism director says job exceeds description


Haines tourism director Leslie Ross will leave her position June 8, but may do extended work to finish ongoing projects and contribute to the hiring process.

Ross told the Tourism Advisory Board May 11 that she has requested to continue working on projects like borough code Title 5 changes and a promotional video.

Ross also said she is working with interim borough manager Brad Ryan to make changes to the tourism director job description to more accurately reflect the position.

“I have been working with Brad over the last months to try to come up with solutions to make this position more reasonable because the way that it’s structured right now, it’s not sustainable. At least not sustainable for me,” she said. “I do not believe the current job description covers half of what a tourism director does these days.”

She said she is updating the responsibilities to include social media management, online marketing, and overseeing the production of creative elements (by contract or in-house), as well as attending assembly and committee meetings.

During her statement of resignation to the assembly May 4, Ross said the “politics” of the position was becoming difficult for her to handle.

“I took a job as a tourism director not for a job in politics but a job that would focus on marketing, communications and PR…With this current environment, this job and many department head jobs are political and it’s exhausting and keeps us from doing what we do best,” Ross said.

When asked later what politics made her job difficult, Ross said, “I use the term politics loosely. Not referring to elections or governance aside from the most recent (and earlier) involvement of staff in the hiring process of the manager.”

“It is the tourism director’s job to be present at meetings when items of tourism are on the agenda as the director is an advocate for the industry,” Ross said. “An example of these issues would be heliskiing, tour permitting, Title V, Chilkoot Corridor, 1 percent tax, etc. Because of the climate of our public and often assembly action, these issues seem to be more at odds than normal, with more and longer meetings. If the tourism director did not comment on items that pertain to tourism – I believe they would not be doing their job.”

Assembly member Tom Morphet said he’d like to see the job go back to being non-political. “We need to lasso that job and bring it back to what it was originally meant to be,” Morphet said this week. “I feel that the position has evolved into a political one and it was never intended to be one. The job was to just promote the community of Haines as a tourist destination. Now, apparently, tourism directors feel that they’re in charge of the whole industry,” he said, adding that he thinks the job title is misleading.

Ross said she had refrained from speaking out at assembly meetings. “However, due to the recent activities around assembly and the turnover of managers I, as well as other department heads, decided to stand up at these meetings. Many of these decisions and actions have greatly impacted staff.”

When asked if leaving the position in the middle of Haines’ tourist season would cause any difficulty, Ross said it does set challenges both to current and incoming staff.

“I came on at this same time three years ago…A big difference I hope for is overlap, which I did not have, so I can work directly with my replacement and ease the transition,” Ross said.

She’ll consider the request of some TAB members to serve with the group as a community member. “I will consider sitting on boards after at least a month or so of sitting on my deck and relaxing. I am ready to sit out of politics for a bit and focus on family,” she said.


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