Juneau Color: Wanamaker planning for the future

Goldbelt chairman says background in science will help

Posted: Friday, June 08, 2001

Longtime Juneau resident Randy Wanamaker was in Seattle when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act was enacted in 1971. The development spurred his career as a geologist, environmental assessor and land-use planner.

"I was hearing the industrial viewpoint and I was hearing the environmental viewpoint and was wondering 'What's the answer here?' ... I decided I wanted to come back and work for my people to help us preserve and protect our culture, our land and our traditions. But to base it on sound integration of science and technology," he said.

Wanamaker's career led him to study volcanoes, earthquakes, groundwater and minerals. He has participated in land management and resource planning throughout the region and the country. He brings those interests to his new post as chairman of the board of directors of Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation.

Born and raised in Juneau, Wanamaker's Tlingit name is Tsaaw Eesh. He is a member of the Kaagwaantaan clan, Killer whale from Diex X' awooth Hit in Sitka and is Deisheetaan yeti, child of a Beaver. His grandfather moved his family to Juneau from Sitka in the 1920s to work at the Alaska Juneau gold mine near downtown and to organize Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 2.

Today, Wanamaker, 57, is a member of the ANB and the Tlingit-Haida Central Council's Juneau community council. He has served on the Juneau School Board, the school district's budget task force and a number of city and state committees and boards. His wife, Karen Doxey, works for the Juneau School District. They have four children, Jennifer, Elisabeth, Kael and Ian.

Wanamaker has been on Goldbelt's board of directors since 1993 and was elected chairman last weekend. The corporation has made a transition from timber to tourism during his tenure.

"The role of the board with shareholders is not just to earn a profit, although that's our primary mission. We need to earn a responsible profit," he said. "We also need to communicate how we intend to earn that profit ... so our plan is consistent with shareholder values and our culture."

He also sees a important connection between Goldbelt and Juneau as a whole.

"Things that are good for the city are good for Goldbelt and things that are good for Goldbelt are good for the city," he said. "One of the best examples is cooperative studies and planning for West Juneau," where the city and the corporation own land.

Newly re-elected Goldbelt board member Edith McHenry describes Wanamaker as an involved parent and knowledgeable professional.

"We're very fortunate to have someone of his caliber on our board," she said. "We're excited about future opportunities for shareholders and Randy is very committed in that regard."

Tlingit and Haida of the City and Borough of Juneau President Judy George said Wanamaker's background with the council and his experience with land planning makes him a valuable asset.

"He takes a thing and runs with it," she said. "He makes himself accessible."

Wanamaker has worked on mapping and mineral projects at Sealaska Corp., helped write oil-field waste disposal criteria as a groundwater program manager for the Environmental Protection Agency, and has worked on the AJ and Kensington mine projects. While working for the U.S. Geological Survey, he studied earthquakes and geothermal power at Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

He also has worked on environmental, municipal and engineering projects for OPAK Engineers and Klukwan Inc. Today he is an independent contractor and president of Gateway Technologies.

"Southeast Alaska is one of the most mineral resource-rich areas in the world. There's a future for mining here," he said. "We have to plan on how use it responsibly."

For example, the Kensington project could bring 200 direct jobs to the community if it is redesigned for more difficult economic circumstances, he said. The project, tied up by low metals prices and regulatory issues, would reopen a gold mine near Lynn Canal north of Berners Bay.

Wanamaker said advice from others has been helpful as his career has developed.

"I learned early to listen to people with experience," he said. "I've learned from people in industry, people in science and ordinary folks with a lot of life experience who seemed to understand how to get by in life."

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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