Haines, Alaska. (Bruce Barrett/Flickr Creative Commons)

Haines, Alaska. (Bruce Barrett/Flickr Creative Commons)

Four Borough Manager candidates will visit Haines in May to interview in-person for the top borough job. The assembly narrowed down the list of finalists at a meet Tuesday night. There was some conflict about who seemed right for the job.

The four finalists include candidates with town administration experience in Maryland, Colorado and Florida, and a Coast Guard director with Alaska roots.

Dennis Koenig received the most support in an initial vote by assembly members. Koenig has been city manager in the 1,000-person town of La Jara, Colorado since 2011. He came to city management later in his career, after working many years in the private sector, including owning his own construction business.

“He seemed to me like a veteran manager,” said Richard Fursman, who the assembly hired to conduct the manager search.

The assembly was also in agreement over Mark Karet, the director of administrative services in Hillsborough County, Florida. He’s been in that position since 2008, and before that worked in planning and community development. Fursman said when asked how he would handle the challenges of Haines’ remoteness and sometimes unforgiving weather conditions, Karet said…

“The warmth doesn’t come from the temperature, it comes from the community,” Fursman said. “And the acceptance and being able to feel like you’re part of something real and you can make a difference.”

After some debate, the assembly added Ken Decker to the finalist list. He is currently administrator in Caroline County, Maryland. Before that, he was manager in the 6,000-person Maryland town of Hampstead. Fursman said he was one of the most qualified candidates and that he thoroughly researched Haines before the job interview.

The assembly had a hard time agreeing on a fourth finalist. Some favored Coast Guard director William Seward, who is currently the Director of Auxiliary and Recreational Boating Safety at a base in Miami. Seward is Alaska Native and has connections to the state. But, borough management would be new to him.

Other assembly members favored candidate Susan Jensen, the operations manager for a homeowners organization in Bayshore, Alaska. She applied for the Haines manager job three years ago.

“This person in the group is the closest to a Haines individual of anybody you’ll ever find in a job interview,” Assemblyman George Campbell said.

Assembly member Ron Jackson suggested it would be good to include Jensen in the finalists for diversity. Assemblyman Tresham Gregg agreed, saying people have asked him if there are any female candidates for manager.

“There is interest in the community for a woman in this position,” Gregg said.

Assembly members Diana Lapham and Margaret Friedenauer balked at including Jensen because of her gender.

“In my mind, they’re all rated for their competency, the job they can do, and so on and so on and so on,” said Lapham. “A woman or a man, that does not even enter my mind. So I don’t like that referral.”

Lapham and Friedenauer said they did not think Jensen was qualified enough for the manager job. The majority favored Seward over Jensen, so he was added as the fourth finalist.

The finalists will come to Haines May 13 and 14 for in-person interviews. They will attend the same community meet-and-greet as the police chief candidates.