Two new candidates have been added to list of finalists for the top job in the Haines Borough. After meeting behind closed doors for about an hour, the borough assembly announced they would invite Kevin Opple and Kate Fjell to Haines to interview for the position of borough manager.
Two of the assembly’s top choices for manager withdrew from consideration in the past week.
Dennis Koenig stepped out of the running after the Chilkat Valley News reported on ‘crude’ material he posted to his Facebook page. Ken Decker withdrew after seeing media reports of the assembly’s public meeting where they narrowed down the candidate pool. Decker told the consultant hired to conduct the manager search that the assembly’s public conversation ‘exposed people unfairly.’
The assembly did not have a public conversation about who to add to the finalist roster following the two withdrawals.
“We evaluated the remaining candidates and we still wanted four to come and we talked about qualifications and this is how we ranked them,” assembly member Margaret Friedenauer said after the executive session.
Kevin Opple was most recently director of operations at a naval station in Everett, Washington. He says in his application that he retired from the Navy last month after 20 years of service. He recently gained his Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Kate Fjell has been the assistant to the city administrator in Boonville, Missouri since 2014. Before that, she was in charge of special projects in the 8,000-person city. She has a Master’s degree in Rural Sociology.
The assembly also decided to add two names as back-up finalists in case anyone else withdraws from the search. They are Alaska Public Offices Commission Executive Director Paul Dauphinais and Bayshore, Alaska homeowners’ association manager Susan Jensen.
A few people spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting, asking the assembly to start over on the manager search. Tom Morphet said even though he supports the idea of using a search firm, he thinks the firm the assembly hired, Brimeyer Fursman, failed to find qualified candidates.
“Go back out, find a better recruitment firm and hit the restart button on this whole process,” Morphet said. “I know this idea seems radical, but what’s radical is when we hire a mediocre person to take the helm of this community and try to lead it.”
Gershon Cohen also said the assembly should end the $27,000 contract with Brimeyer Fursman.
“Personally I’d be looking at the contract pretty hard with this consultant. Because I don’t think they’ve done a professional job. I mean a consultant who is trying to find qualified candidates who doesn’t look at social media nowadays isn’t doing their job.
Following the newspaper report about Koenig’s Facebook posts, Richard Fursman of Brimeyer Fursman said he doesn’t conduct social media checks until the finalists are selected. Fursman defended Koenig’s credentials, saying he has worked to foster diversity in local governments in Colorado, where he is a town administrator.
If Fjell and Opple agree to continue in the manager vetting process, they will join other finalists William Seward and Mark Karet. Finalists are scheduled to visit Haines May 13 and 14.