Assembly selects Swope as manager

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Juneau Assembly decided this morning to offer former Assembly member Rod Swope the job of city manager.

After nearly three hours of discussion this morning, the Assembly unanimously voted to offer Swope the position because of his experience and background in Juneau, Mayor Sally Smith said.

"We thought he had strong management skills from his time with the state and knowledge of local issues," she said. "We felt he could navigate well and objectively. He just stood out."

Swope co-owns Galligaskins gift shop downtown, served on the Assembly from 1991 to 1997 and is a former commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources. Swope said his wife Gaile, who co-owns Galligaskins, would run the store if he is named city manager.

He was unavailable for comment by the Empire's midday deadline.

A Juneau resident for the past 25 years, Swope said he decided to apply for the city manager job when he heard former Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce was coming back to City Hall. He also is interested in the challenge and the variety the position offers, he said.

"My kids have grown up and I have the time to commit," he told the Assembly Monday. "Some of the issues you're dealing with I thought, 'I think I can help.' ... I love Juneau and I've been here a long time. I'm not going anywhere."

Swope pushed the city to redevelop the Steamship Wharf-Marine Park area last year, and said the project needs to balance business and community needs. He also served on the city's old Tourism Advisory Committee.

Smith said Assembly members will meet Wednesday to work out a salary and benefit package with Swope, who tentatively has accepted the position.

"Hopefully by the next Assembly meeting we can bring a proposal to the full Assembly," she said.

The Assembly also interviewed Michael Miller of Trego, Wis.; Tracy Fuller of Desert Hot Springs, Calif. and David Fraser of Beloit, Kan. for the job on Monday.

In interviews at City Hall, Assembly members asked the candidates about their management style, communication with staff and elected officials, the role of government in economic development and how to involve minorities in decisions. They also were asked about their experience with major litigation, neighborhood conflicts, budget shortfalls, tourism, airports, harbors and hospitals. One question dealt with the Assembly's split stance on a road out of Juneau.

Miller has been the administrative coordinator and personnel director of Washburn County, Wis., since 1997 and helped form the Washburn County Economic Development Corp. He has been involved in land-use planning and health and human services in his current job. Part of Washburn County's economy is based on tourism and outdoor recreation, he said.

Miller said he has wanted to come to Alaska since the mid-1980s and is attracted by Juneau's outdoor activities. Washburn County is rural and isolated from major commercial centers, and in some ways is similar to Juneau, he said.

"There seems to be an activist and vocal population here and that's one of the things I'm looking forward to," he said.

Fuller is the assistant city manager at the City of Desert Hot Springs, Calif., and former town manager of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. She has experience as a finance director and economic development director. Desert Hot Springs and Mammoth Lakes are largely dependent on tourism, she said.

Fuller said she is interested in working in Alaska and retiring here.

Fuller successfully lobbied for the Federal Aviation Administration for runway improvement funding and put together a brochure about bears and proper garbage storage.

Fraser is the city administrator in Beloit, Kan., and the former city manager of Buchanan, Mich. He grew up in northern Colorado and his wife grew up near the ocean so Juneau seems like a perfect fit for his family, he said.

Like Juneau, Beloit is remote, self-reliant and a regional hub, he said. The city, the local college and the hospital are working to build a wellness and recreation center, he said. The city helped sell a half-percent sales tax increase for capital improvement by working with downtown businesses, Fraser said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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