Debra Schnabel is a candidate for Haines Borough Manager. (Emily Files)

Debra Schnabel is set to be the next Haines borough manager. (Emily Files)

The Haines Assembly’s manager hire decision has proven contentious. Supporters of the losing candidate, Brad Ryan, called for the assembly to reconsider at a meeting Wednesday night. But that did not happen, and contract negotiations with Debra Schnabel will begin soon.

“I know when wrong choices have been made, and I also know good people make really bad choices sometimes,” said Tiffany DeWitt.

“Did you guys make the right decision?” said Haynes Tormey. “You might want to think about it.”

DeWitt and Tormey were two of several people who spoke Wednesday against the decision the assembly made the night before.

On Tuesday, after a couple hours of private deliberations, the assembly first rejected a motion to hire Ryan in a 4-2 vote. They then voted 5-1 to offer a contract to Schnabel.

Both candidates are local and both have many residents’ support. But like a lot of assembly decisions lately, the choice between Schnabel and Ryan has divided much of the community.

“I’ve tried to consider that this isn’t all about me,” said Schnabel. “It’s about a lot of things in the community, and one of them is that Brad was a very popular manager. You know, I’m not going to take it radically personally, it’s not about not wanting me, it’s about wanting Brad.”

Schnabel says after hearing the strong support for Ryan that many borough staff members expressed this week, she doubted her chances.  And even when the assembly did decide on her, she was hesitant. She says she thought about withdrawing.

“Yes, it occurred to me,” Schnabel said. “It also occurred to me that I did want to see this through for my own peace of mind because I’ve given up a lot of opportunities in my life and I wanted to see if I could work my way through this one, and I did.”

“Honestly I was disappointed,” said Ryan of the assembly’s decision. “But they made the decision on what they felt they wanted, and so it’s time to move on.”

Ryan is serving as interim manager for the second time in his less than two years with the Haines Borough. After Schnabel takes over, he plans to go back to his job as public facilities director. Ryan says he held a meeting Thursday to talk about the news with borough staff.

“Now it’s our job as staff to work positively forward with Debra,” Ryan said. “And I hope that that advice was heeded and we move forward and everybody can kind of give her a shot.”

Supporters of Ryan argued that he was the more qualified candidate, since he had worn the manager hat twice. Michael Wald questioned how the assembly could overlook that.

“Consider reconsidering your vote,” Wald said at the Wednesday meeting. “And if you can’t reconsider your vote, I and the rest of the public would very much like to hear why you think Debra is more qualified.”

Assemblyman Tom Morphet responded.

“The qualities of Debra that tilted me toward Debra is that I believe she is forthright, I believe that she is resolute, I believe she’s creative, I believe she’s a student of government, and she knows the code,” Morphet said.

Schnabel also has a master’s degree in public administration and a long history in borough government. She’s applied for the manager job a couple times before. She says she feels ready for it.

“I think that the borough has a lot of potential for moving in a positive direction,” Schnabel said. “To offer more opportunity economically and in quality of life for people. I think we also have a lot more potential for getting along and being a self-supporting community, in the sense that we support each other more.”

Schnabel will meet with Mayor Jan Hill and Assembly members Margaret Friedenauer and Ron Jackson to negotiate a contract, which will then need approval from the majority of the assembly.