ANCHORAGE - A search committee for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has chosen a retiring Coast Guard commander to be the institute's new executive director.
Vice Adm. Ray Riutta, retiring as commander of the Coast Guard's Pacific area, based in Alameda, Calif., will take over for Barbara Belknap, who is stepping down as head of the state seafood marketing agency on Aug. 1 after five years in the top job.
Riutta has spent a total of 15 years in Alaska, serving in various Coast Guard posts around the state.
Riutta comes from a fishing family. His father was a Columbia River gillnetter and his grandfather was a troller on the Columbia. He served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council while commander of the 17th District in Alaska.
Given the tough market conditions and potentially significant changes facing commercial fishing, ASMI Board Chairman Sandro Lane said the organization needs a leader with excellent communications skills.
"Ray's proven track record on communication skills and ability to arrive at consensus and be a leader are huge. We need leadership, we need someone who isn't carrying any particular cross or banner. Someone who isn't representing any one region, one group, one gear group, one constituency over the other," Lane said.
Lane said Riutta will help bring together special interest groups to rally the industry.
Gov. Tony Knowles must approve ASMI's selection. Spokesman Bob King said he doesn't anticipate any problems with the appointment.
When Riutta decided to retire to Juneau and buy a house this summer, he didn't know about the ASMI position, but learned of it on his way back to Juneau.
Until the governor makes the appointment, Riutta is reluctant to speak about his plans.
"I'm really honored to have been considered for this job and I'm looking forward to getting started whenever the governor approves it," he said.