ANCHORAGE — Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield is retiring from his post as director of the Port of Anchorage, port officials announced Thursday.
Sheffield, 83, sent a letter to Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan announcing his plans to retire Jan. 15.
“My service over the last decade at the Port of Anchorage, Alaska’s port, represents some of the best years of my life,” Sheffield said in a written statement. “It has been an honor to continue my commitment to the municipality, the state and to Alaskans. Serving Alaskans in multiple capacities over the past 30 years has been one of the highest honors of my life.”
Sheffield is credited with expanding the Port of Anchorage during his 10-year tenure, but critics complained of cost overruns and construction problems on the multi-million dollar project.
Estimates of the port expansion project have ballooned to $1 billion, up from $360 million in 2005. A federal audit is being conducted.
The design of the expansion project changed from traditional a dock-on-piling port to a design with U-shaped cells, the Anchorage Daily News has reported. The intent was a new 1.5-mile long steel dock and berths for larger ships. Backfilling is intended to create 135 acres of new land for operations. However, the steel was damaged when it was installed two years ago, and the past two construction seasons were used to repair damage.
A construction worker was killed at the project last summer when dirt collapsed and he was pinned underwater by a bulldozer.
During an Occupy the Ports protest earlier this month, protesters called for Sheffield to resign, with organizers going as far as drafting a letter of resignation for him.
“When I arrived at the port in 2001, we recognized the necessity of modernization and continually worked to develop that objective,” Sheffield said in the statement. “The project has faced challenges but we have worked hard over the last two years to get the management and construction back on the correct course.”
It’s estimated that 90 percent of the goods Alaskans use come through the port.
“I am confident that I leave the port a more profitable, vibrant, and thriving facility. It is the lifeline for nearly all of Alaska. It is our lifeline for today and the key to economic growth for tomorrow,” Sheffield said.
Sullivan said he joins Alaskans statewide in thanking Sheffield for years of service.
“His passion for the Port of Anchorage is unmatched and his recognition and vision that we must plan for the decades ahead by improving this critical facility is solid,” Sullivan said in a statement.
Sheffield served a single term as the state’s governor in 1982 to 1986 and faced impeachment proceedings in 1985 over allegations he manipulated a state office lease. The state Senate concluded there was not enough evidence to pursue impeachment.
He later served as president of the Alaska Railroad Corp.
KTUU first reported Sheffield’s retirement.