John "JC" Conley, aka "Mr. Southeast Conference," first vice president and past board president for Southeast Conference, died on Jan. 31 while in Juneau undergoing treatment for cancer.
JC was a board member of Southeast Conference for 20-plus years, serving twice as president and was to serve a third term in 2011. While he was president, the membership of the organization doubled and event attendance tripled. Over, the years, he helped raise thousands of dollars for college scholarships. If you have attended a Southeast Conference auction in the last 15 years, you know to bring your wallet, because JC would make short order of your funds, all in the cause for scholarships for our students.
His passion for the education, training and mentoring of our young people was tremendous. He truly cared about the people of Southeast Alaska and was involved in many organizations and committees statewide. He volunteered a tremendous amount of his valuable time and business expertise to coordinate the efforts of Southeast Alaska's business and civic leaders in growing the economy of the region.
JC was a big defender of the timber industry, from support of the pulp mills in Ketchikan and Sitka to the small mom and pop operations on Prince of Wales Island. He was passionate about the sustainability of the industry. As the industry dwindled he never gave up, most recently heading up a fight with the U.S. Government on the latest TLMP decision.
Transportation issues were also very important to JC. He served on advisory boards for both the Alaska Marine Highway System as well as Alaska Airlines and knew the management of both organizations personally. He spent countless hours working to improve, and advocate for both systems to the great benefit of southeast and the state of Alaska. In 2002, Gov. Murkowski recognized his great service to the region, and appointed JC to the first Alaska Marine Transportation Advisory Board where he served as the vice-chair and ultimately as the chair.
His other great passion was working to develop low cost energy for southeast communities, especially to Kake where the intertie project was definitely his highest priority. Despite the budget limitations of the small nonprofit, he secured funding for an Energy Coordinator and assisted in the formulation of an energy plan for Southeast Alaska. In 2006, he was asked by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Mike Barton to chair an intertie steering workgroup tasked with considering the feasibility of exporting Alaska hydroelectric to the British Columbia power grid.
When he was on a mission, JC was relentless and never gave up easy. One close acquaintance, in hearing of his passing, put it this way "when JC knew that he couldn't win a fight, he just walked away." We have all lost a friend and a light has definitely gone out in southeast. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones. Services will be held in Ketchikan on Saturday, Feb. 13.
Shelly Wright, executive director, and Southeast Conference Board members and staff, past and present