City Attorney Hartle to retire from CBJ

Wanamaker favors 'broader' search for successor
City Attorney John Hartle announced at Monday night's Borough Assembly meeting that he is retiring at the end of June.

City Attorney John Hartle announced at Monday night’s Borough Assembly meeting that he is retiring at the end of June.


Hartle, who has been the City and Borough of Juneau’s attorney since 2003 and has worked in the Law Department since 1993, said Tuesday that he believes it is the right time for him to leave.

“Not too soon, not too late, you’ve got to find the Goldilocks time,” Hartle chuckled.

Hartle said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family, his boat and his mandolin.

“It’s a good time in my life,” said Hartle. “I’m not burned out on my job. I’ve still got my good health. I’ve got things I want to do.”

Mayor Merrill Sanford appointed Assemblymembers Randy Wanamaker, Jesse Kiehl and Loren Jones to a subcommittee tasked with developing a recruiting process for a successor to Hartle.

“They’re assigned to see what the different routes are that we can do,” Sanford explained Tuesday. “It’s up to the committee to look at the different processes that we have available to us.”

Depending on how long the search for a new city attorney takes, Sanford said, it is possible an interim city attorney could be named after Hartle departs.

Wanamaker suggested Tuesday that he favors an extensive process.

“I thought that the search process we used back then was too abbreviated,” Wanamaker said Tuesday. “I did not support it. I thought we could have done a better job of reaching out in terms of recruitment.”

Wanamaker was one of two assemblymembers to vote against promoting Hartle from deputy city attorney to his current job in 2003, after the retirement of then-City Attorney John Corso.

On the subcommittee, Wanamaker said he intends to push for a “broader” process to “cast a wider net” in searching for a new city attorney this year.

The mayor of Juneau at the time the Assembly hired Hartle as city attorney was Sally Smith.

“I was just so pleased that John took the job, and I have been pleased at how he has handled the pressure with just dignity and dedication and low-keyed, never making a splash or drawing attention to the city attorney’s office, but doing the job for the people of the community,” said Smith Tuesday. “I’ve just been really proud of him, and in many ways, I’m sorry to see him retire, but I guess it becomes time for all of us, and I know he’s prepared staff to follow well in his footsteps.”

Smith said she has known Hartle since he worked in the Alaska State Legislature in the 1980s.

Sanford, who voted in favor of Hartle’s hiring as a member of the Assembly in 2003, was effusive in his praise of the outgoing city attorney Tuesday.

“John Hartle has done a great job for the City and Borough of Juneau. He’s given his heart to the city,” Sanford said.

Sanford highlighted Hartle’s assistance to the CBJ as it has pushed back on repeated efforts to move the seat of Alaska’s government elsewhere in the state.

“He’s been a true, dedicated person to fighting the capital move issue and making our city a better city for the State of Alaska and as the capital,” said Sanford.

Although Wanamaker opposed Hartle’s hiring, he said he believes he has “done a good job on many issues.”

“It’s a job that’s very taxing,” Wanamaker added. “It’s probably one of those jobs where we give them seven or eight tasks, but they really only have time to do three or four well.”

Wanamaker said the Assembly subcommittee will conduct an exit interview with Hartle. He is open to the idea of restructuring the position depending on what Hartle tells them, he added.

Of the subcommittee members and the search for his replacement as city attorney, Hartle said he will “do whatever they need.”

His experience at the Law Department has been a positive one, Hartle said.

“It’s been a great adventure,” said Hartle. “Learned a lot, worked with some of my best friends, enjoyed it, tried to do some good things.”

Hartle added, “It can’t go on forever.”

Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at


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