An experienced ferry administrator from Juneau has been appointed to head the Alaska Marine Highway System, it was announced Monday.
Jim Beedle, currently working as a special assistant to Leo von Scheben, commissioner of the Department and Public Facilities, will serve as the new deputy commissioner for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
The appointment was welcomed by Juneau ferry advocates.
"I think it's wonderful," said Rep. Andrea Doll, D-Juneau, who has been among Southeast legislators active on ferry issues.
"He knows the ferry system inside and out," she said.
Juneau Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathie Roemmich, who chairs the Marine Transportation Advisory Board for Gov. Sarah Palin, praised the appointment as well.
"I think he'll do a great job," she said. "I think he was a wise choice."
Beedle has worked for the ferry system since 1975, serving as steward and purser, before becoming an administrator several years ago. He has served as operations manager and a special assistant to von Scheben.
He spent 10 years as chief purser aboard the LeConte in Southeast Alaska, part of 17 years as a chief purser.
"It is important to have someone in this position with a strong background and knowledge of AMHS," von Scheben said in a press release announcing the appointment.
"Jim's broad experience gives him knowledge of virtually all aspects of AMHS operations, from shipment of commercial cargo to passengers and vehicles," von Scheben said.
Beedle replaces Dennis Hardy in the job, who had little ferry background when appointed.
Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said Beedle's experience will give him a better chance at success than Hardy had.
"The good news is, we're starting out with somebody who knows the system," he said.
Hardy's ferry experience had been a single trip to Alaska many years earlier on a state ferry, Elton said.
Elton said he's known the Beedle family since growing up with them in Juneau, and hopes that having a ferry chief with Beedle's commitment to the system will mean he will be with it for some time.
"The turnover in this job has been horrendous," he said.
Hardy cited personal reasons when he announced his departure, but he'd faced criticism from legislators and others about late summer ferry schedules and unpopular route changes.
Roemmich said she expects Beedle to be a passionate advocate for ferries.
"He cares about people who ride the ferries, the people who work on the ferries, and knows how much it means to coastal communities," she said.
Rep. Doll, whose husband, Juneau Assembly member Bob Doll, once headed the ferry system himself, said Beedle's qualifications are what the system needs.
"I wish it had been done a long time ago," she said.
Beedle will assume his new position on May 16.
Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.