This week, Haines’ tourism director of three years announced her resignation. It’s one of two recent borough staff departures that are, in part, a response to the assembly’s manager hire decision.
Tourism director Leslie Ross explained her resignation at Tuesday’s assembly meeting. She said the constant turnover in the borough manager position has made her job difficult, and the prospect of going through yet another change in leadership was the last straw.
“Part of my reasoning for not staying is to again deal with the added stress of another transition,” Ross said. “And the recent timeline of events, the way this hiring process has moved forward, and how the assembly handled staff. This process has made many staff members feel disrespected and unheard and made me not inspired to try to make this position work.”
A couple weeks ago, the assembly voted to offer a manager contract to Debra Schnabel. The choice was between Schnabel and Brad Ryan, who is the current interim manager. Many borough employees spoke in favor of Ryan, saying he has proven himself as a capable leader and created a sense of stability for the staff.
Ross said recently, borough jobs have become politicized. She said that and the assembly’s frequent and lengthy meetings make it difficult for people with families and full-time jobs to participate.
“I took a job as tourism director not for a job in politics but a job that would focus on marketing, communications and PR — things I think I’m good at and can offer the town of Haines,” Ross said. “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 is not the only borough employee to quit following the manager decision. Assistant harbormaster Gabe Thomas turned in his resignation almost immediately after. Thomas had moved up to interim harbormaster while Ryan served as interim manager. Harbormaster Shawn Bell stepped in to Ryan’s post of public facilities director. But with the hire of Schnabel, Ryan plans to go back to facilities chief, which means Bell and Thomas were to move back into their original roles.
“When they hired Debra, everybody was gonna move back down and I wasn’t going to go back down,” Thomas said. “It was harbormaster or nothing because if you go back to assistant, there was nowhere to go at the borough, and you can barely survive on those wages.”
Thomas was assistant harbormaster for about two and half years. He says he was earning about $18 an hour. Thomas has already left the borough and started a new job in the private sector.
Ross’ last day as tourism director is June 8.