Haines' new interim manager, Brad Ryan (Jillian Rogers)

Haines’ new interim manager, Brad Ryan (Jillian Rogers)

Brad Ryan will start as the Haines Borough Interim Manager on Jan. 2. And he’s looking forward to making some positive changes.

The morning after the assembly voted to hire Ryan without the usual shortlist and interview process, he says he was surprised they went that route. Happy, but surprised.

“If you are optimistic and maybe to a fault, you think you can go in and make the town a better place.”

His few months as the Director of Public Facilities has helped him get a feel for the relationship between borough staff and the assembly. He says he sees a lot of confusion and misunderstandings when it comes to what the assembly thinks staff is doing. He’s hoping to change that and keep both groups informed.

“I think if we have a clear direction from the assembly and it has a lot of public input, that will make my job immensely easier. I think if we don’t get that, and Margaret (Friedenauer) brought it up last night, that will be huge,” Ryan said at his office. “In my two months as the Director of Public Facilities, I never sat down with the assembly as a whole and said this is what I’m doing and this is the direction we’re going. The wastewater treatment plant is a big issue right now, but I’m not sure that the assembly understands that we think we might get money to replace the building and if we don’t, we have a second option to push for. We’re actively working on it as is appropriate. There’s a disconnect there and I don’t think it’s the assembly’s fault and I don’t think it’s the staff’s fault, it’s just the setup of how it works. I want to see more promotion of what the borough does in a positive light.”

Ryan praised former manager Dave Sosa for his consistency and ability to stay within the confines of the code.

“Outside of that, what I think he probably lacked was that he didn’t have a real investment in the community and that was bothersome to me. He did a great job, that I don’t doubt at all, but I think once in a while you have to sit down and say ‘what do we as the borough and the community value?’ And that’s something I think I can improve on.”

As far as project priorities, the sewer plant is first, no question, he says.

“You only have to tour it once, to know that we need to upgrade it. I think that’s the most important because people don’t want their sewer running down the road.”

The usual suspects like the Lutak Dock and the small boat harbor are also on his list of big jobs to tackle. And, he says, he’s already been working on them in his current position at public facilities, so he’s got a leg up.

Before signing on with the borough earlier this fall, Ryan worked as the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition and the director at Takshanuk Watershed Council before that. He was also the science director and grant writer for the Chilkoot Indian Association for several years. He says it’s a fine balance between funding big necessary projects and nonprofits that add a certain quality of life.

“And if you don’t provide a quality of life, then people pull up stakes and leaves. We need to be careful of being like ‘all we want to do is fix the sewer treatment plant’ well, that’s not true. We want people to stay in this town.”

Ryan says he has no delusions of trying to please everyone. It’s just not possible. But he says he’ll work to compromise and meet folks in the middle.