Jon Scribner likely enjoyed the smell of the trail, the musty scent of earth and rainforest, as much as he savored the summit. He most certainly enjoyed the boat’s run across the blue-green waters of Southeast, as much as he loved the fight of the king salmon.
Scribner was an adventurer.
He was also an influential leader in the 70s and 80s who helped guide some of the early projects on which many Southeast communities are built.
Today, a local group wants to commemorate Scribner’s life by naming a peak on Heintlzman Ridge to honor him.
His daughter Amanda Mallot remembers well her days spent in Alaska’s wild with her father. She said, with his family in tow, he would pack up his 24-foot Bayliner cruiser, the “Mandy Ann,” and venture from one part of Southeast to the other.
“Weekends, when we were all little, were spent boating,” she said. “It was just a given that we would be boating on the weekends. We spent lots of time romping around Southeast Alaska, which was very fun.”
The photos in the family album show Scribner smiling, his hands full of king crab. They show him grinning with a salmon and posing next to a halibut so large it dwarfs his children standing nearby.
Scribner made his mark professionally in Southeast, as well.
For nearly three decades he worked for the state of Alaska. His employment began in 1969 with the then-Department of Health and Welfare in Fairbanks. In 1971 he and his wife, Kit, moved to Juneau, where Scribner became the director of air and water quality programs for the newly-created Department of Environmental Conservation.
In 1979, he joined the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities as assistant deputy commissioner for design and construction, a statewide responsibility. In 1983, when the department was regionalized, he became head of the Southeast Region.
During his tenure, he served under Governors Hammond, Sheffield, Cowper, Hickel and Knowles. His repeated reappointments attest to his integrity and hard work.
Coworkers, such as retired engineer John Scott, remember his leadership as one that transcended the politics that can muddy an otherwise simple process.
“Scribner was one of the cultivators of the Village Safe Water Program — made a heck of a difference statewide — cleaner water, wastewater treatment ... Because he worked for four different governors, it speaks to his capacity to get things done,” Scott said.
Mallott remembers her father looking at the glass as half full, even when he faced losing his job.
“I still remember as a young child ... every time there was a new governor my dad would sit in his chair and go, ‘alright here we go!’,” Mallot said. “He would have to resign and they would either accept or reject it. So that was a really big thing, that my dad lasted through so many governors and so many different administrations.”
When democratic Senator Dennis Egan was mayor of Juneau, he proclaimed Feb. 7, 1997 as Jonathan Scribner Appreciation Day in Juneau. In his speech, Egan stated that Scribner’s “efforts have produced well-planned projects which will benefit all Alaskans now and in the future.”
That was the same year Scribner retired from DOT.
Eight years later, at the age of 63, he died after an accidental fall while returning from a successful climb of Mount Stroller White in 2005.
He was an avid hiker, always heading into the wilderness when the opportunity presented itself.
Now, after the mandatory waiting period of five years, Scott and Scribner’s longtime friend Randy Bayliss are working to honor their acquaintance and coworker by naming a currently unnamed peak on Heintlzman Ridge after Scribner.
“Basically, there was a feeling from a number of people after Jon’s death that it would be fitting to commemorate his active life by naming a geographic feature,” Scott said.
The selected peak rises to an elevation of 3,610 feet and is located to the east of Thunder Mountain. The proposed name? Mount Scribner.
Scott said they chose the area because “he trod the ground, above the place he worked for 14 years, plus it’s unnamed.”
“We could have picked a place to rename, like Mount Stroller White, but we chose this location because there is a visceral connection to the place,” he said.
Scribner was known to regularly head out the door of his DOT office at 7-mile on Old Glacier Highway, hike up the trail behind the building and head for the alpine.
Remembering his love for the lands and waters of Southeast, Mallott and Kit Scribner feel the chosen peak is a fitting tribute to a man they said relished the outdoors and shared that passion with his family. That enthusiasm percolated down, Mallot said, whether he meant for it to or not, to his coworkers, as well.
“I think it’s a good place,” Kit said.
“And it’s right there,” Mallott said. “Above the place he worked for so many years. And we did so many hikes there and he certainly did.”
“I have all these photos,” Kit said, “of him at the base of Thunder Mountain and in that area.”
Her voice trailed off as she spoke, as she remembered.
Scott said he plans to submit the application today to the Department of Natural Resources’ office of History and Archaeology in Anchorage. The application will then go to a review committee, which meets twice a year, where it will be examined based on the following guidelines: The person must have been deceased for at least five years; The person must have made a significant acknowledged contribution over time to Alaska; The person had a direct, long-term association with the feature; The name must be supported by residents.
Joan Antonson, a state historian, said the next meeting of the Alaska Historic Commission will happen in late May and individuals wishing to comment on the proposed naming effort may send an email to her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She said once the application passes through state review board, there is also a federal review process.
Local support is already apparent.
Sen. Egan penned a letter on Jan. 3 in support of the naming. He wrote “Jon Scribner helped build the young Alaska government, setting an example of professionalism, dedication and hard work that today serves as a benchmark for government service ... Alaska would be a very different and much less prosperous state without Jon’s considerable engineering ability and his formidable personal relations skills. His life would be appropriately memorialized by giving his name to one of the mountain peaks he so greatly loved and enjoyed climbing.”
One day, Kit said, she too hopes to climb the mountain that one day may bear her late husband’s name.
“I need to get in better shape,” Kit said. “It would be nice to get up there.”
“There’s a lot of amazing people that do a lot of amazing things — and I have to keep reminding myself this is coming from all of his colleagues and the people he worked with — but it’s exciting for our kids, for all of his grandkids,” Mallot said.
“These days, we call Stroller White ‘grandpa’s mountain,’ but this would really be ‘grandpa’s mountain’,” she said, “It’s certainly an honor.”
• Contact Outdoors Editor Abby Lowell at email@example.com.