The Haines Borough Assembly narrowed down a list of manager applicants from ten to four at a meeting Thursday. The shortlist includes the current interim manager, the Haines Chamber of Commerce director, and two Lower 48 applicants who have Alaska municipal experience. The assembly did not choose to interview former manager Bill Seward, who was terminated three months ago but re-applied for the job.
The shortlist is Brad Ryan, Debra Schnabel, Gene Green and Patrick Jordan.
Ryan was hired as borough public facilities director in 2015. But for about half of his approximately 18 months with the borough, he’s served as interim manager. He stepped into the role at the end of 2015 when Dave Sosa left and then at the end of the 2016 when the assembly fired Bill Seward.
Most of Ryan’s career and his education background is in the field of science. He was executive director of local and regional watershed coalitions. He was also a research fisheries biologist in Oregon for 10 years.
The other local candidate, Schnabel, has been the director of the Haines Chamber of Commerce for about two years. She is a former borough assembly member, assistant to the borough manager and borough consultant. She has a master’s degree in public administration.
Schnabel’s application was marked as not meeting basic qualifications in an initial review by borough clerk Julie Cozzi and deputy clerk Alekka Fullerton. Cozzi and Fullerton said at the direction of the assembly, they vetted applications based on qualifications in the manager profile and description posted with the job notice.
“We did not at any point see our role as deciding whether someone was qualified or not,” said Cozzi. “We didn’t even look at names to be honest with you.”
The manager profile includes the requirement of at least five years of ‘increasingly responsible management experience in an executive position.’ Cozzi and Fullerton said Schnabel did not meet that criteria.
But the assembly did see Schnabel as qualified enough to make the shortlist. Heather Lende quickly made a motion to select Schnabel and Ryan as finalists.
“I still think that we have two strong local candidates, and that interviewing other people should be discouraged in some way,” Lende said.
Assemblyman Mike Case also favored sticking to the local candidates.
“We all know that we’ve got at least one, if not two very strong candidates that live right here in town,” said Case. “And I don’t want to get someone’s hopes up unnecessarily when I think most of us really feel we’re not gonna hire from the outside.”
But not everyone wanted to limit the finalists to local applicants only.
“If I was choosing four I would add Gene Green and Patrick Jordan to the list as people who seem to have a lot of Alaskan experience in small town administration as well as bringing a fresh outlook to the community,” said Assembly member Tresham Gregg.
The assembly voted unanimously to add Gene Green to the list. Green writes in his application that he has over 32 years of municipal management experience and 20 of those years were in Alaska. He was last in Alaska in the 1990s, when he served for three years as Unalaska assistant city manager. He is currently a project manager in Oregon City.
The assembly was slightly less enthusiastic about going beyond three candidates and adding Patrick Jordan to the list. They voted 4-2 to shortlist Jordan, with Lende and Ron Jackson opposed.
Jordan has also been assistant city manager of Unalaska, but more recently, from 2013-2015. He was also borough manager in Bristol Bay for a little over a year. Jordan says his family left Alaska for health reasons, but now they want to return. He is currently administrator for a county of about 30,000 people in Michigan.
Jordan also applied for the borough manager job in Sitka. He is one of five finalists the Sitka Assembly will interview later this month.
The next step for the Haines manager candidates is a quick screening by the borough clerk, including web searches but not a formal background check.
At a meeting Tuesday, the assembly will decide whether to conduct initial interviews with the candidates. After those conversations, the finalists will go through a more thorough interview process that involves community meetings.