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Retirement board gets appointments

Juneau union leader wants improved retirements for new public employees

Posted: July 16, 2012 - 11:02pm

Two new public employee representatives have been appointed to the Alaska Retirement Management Board, while a long-time advocate of strengthening the state’s retirement plans has been reappointed.

Juneau’s Tom Brice, business representative for the Alaska District Council of Laborers, has been appointed to a seat on the board reserved for a representative of the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS).

Brice represents Public Employees Local 71, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

The board serves as trustee for the PERS, the Teacher Retirement System and other public retirement plans in Alaska. The appointments were made by Gov. Sean Parnell.

Brice said he hopes to strengthen retirements for Alaska’s public employees.

“I think we need to have a very honest conversation about getting Alaska public employees back into a defined-benefit pension,” he said.

Alaska converted new public employees to a 401(k)-style defined contribution retirement plan, but Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan and others have been trying to return.

A defined benefit plan that is expected to cost the state no more than the current defined-contribution plan passed the Senate during the last days of this year’s legislative session, but was no acted on by the House of Representatives.

The Parnell administration opposed the new plan, saying that if the assumptions were wrong it could open the state to additional costs.

Brice, though, said the employees deserve the security of a defined-benefit plan.

“It is incumbent that the state ensure that its employees, the people who have committed a career to the state and to public service, that they have a retirement where they can retire in dignity,” he said.

Brice was a four-term Democratic representative from Fairbanks. He is also president of the Juneau Building Trades Council, treasurer of the Central Labor Council in Juneau, a trustee of the Chapel-by-the-Lake, and the Juneau Gun Club.

Brice replaces on the board Michael Williams, a corporate income tax auditor with the Department of Revenue. Parnell chose not to reappoint Williams.

Also joining the board is Sandra Ryan of Fairbanks, a mathematics and tech prep instructor at West Valley High School. She has been a teacher since 1988. Ryan is a member of the National Education Association Alaska Board of Directors and a member of the Fairbanks Education Association.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in computer science engineering.

She holds a seat reserved for a Teachers Retirement System representative.

Martin Pihl of Ketchikan was reappointed to the board, holding a seat reserved for a member of the public.

Pihl came to Alaska in 1962 to work for Ketchikan Pulp Company, becoming president and general manager in 1987 to his retirement in 1994.

He then served as acting executive director the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, and currently services as a director of the National Bank of Alaska, on Wells Fargo Bank’s Alaska Statewide Advisory Board and holds numerous other civic leadership positions.

He holds a degree in accounting from the University of Washington, and has been a CPA since 1958.

He has been active in advocating moves to strengthen the trust funds, and earlier this year won support for a plan to step up contributions to the plans.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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