UFA elects new leadership

Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2010

United Fishermen of Alaska announced Wednesday that Arni Thomson has been elected to lead the statewide fishing trade association as president.

Thomson, executive director of the Alaska Crab Coalition, has served on the UFA board of directors since 1997 as the representative of the ACC, and served as UFA's national committee chair since 2005.

In preparation for taking the office with UFA, Thomson moved to Anchorage as part of his commitment to being available to access Alaska fishermen and state and federal officials.

UFA offices will remain in Juneau, Executive Director Mark Vinsel said.

"Our office will always be centered where the capital is," he said.

However, Thomson's move to Anchorage ensures the group better access to important decision makers and partners, Vinsel said.

"Much of our work is in the Legislature but also working with federal agencies, many of which have their offices in Anchorage," he said. "So many of the state divisions are also increasingly centered in Anchorage; so many of the resource industries with which we interact are also located in Anchorage. (A president located in Anchorage) allows those relationships to be improved."

Vinsel also noted that while Juneau is the state's political center, Anchorage is the economics and population center.

Stephanie Madsen of Juneau was elected to succeed Thomson as national chair. Cheryl Sutton of Ninilchik will follow Kathy Hansen as the statewide chair.

The three new top officers mark a significant change in leadership for the organization, Vinsel said. Former presidents served for seven years and three years consecutively. The former national and statewide chairs each served close to five years.

Other elections include: Duncan Fields of Kodiak follows Roland Maw as administrative chair; Chip Treinen of Anchorage continues as vice president and Rich Davis of Juneau continues as secretary treasurer.

Thomson replaces Joe Childers, who served as UFA President since 2007. Childers helped raise UFA to 37 member groups and 56 lifetime members, and helped UFA increase its outreach and prominence outside Alaska.

Thomson said he would continue Childers' work to elevate public awareness of commercial fisheries, ensure access for fishermen and good management practices, and increase the organization's membership.

"Alaska has done a good job of marketing our seafood products and sustaining our seafood resource, but we also need to help raise the awareness within our own state of the value that the fishing industry represents in the state, and the importance of sustaining the thousands of individual fishing family businesses," he said.

Thomson also serves as the Shellfish Committee Chair for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

In addition to the elected officers, UFA's executive committee includes nine committee chairs. Bruce Wallace of Juneau continues as environmental chair, Bruce Schactler of Kodiak as marketing chair, Julianne Curry of Petersburg as subsistence chair, Gary Fandrei of Kenai as enhancement chair, and Paul Shadura of Kenai as membership chair.

All of the leadership positions are volunteer.

UFA represents 37 Alaska commercial fishing associations from fisheries throughout the state and its offshore waters.

Recent accomplishments include raising the Fishermen's Fund claim limit, broadening the state's fisheries energy efficiency loan programs, and tax relief for Exxon Valdez oil spill claimants.

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