The Juneau Economic Development Council appointed Lance D. Miller as executive director at its board meeting Thursday afternoon.
In other business, the board approved a by-law change eliminating one of the two Juneau Assembly seats on the JEDC board and replacing it with a representative from the University of Alaska Southeast.
The board also said it drafted a letter to the Empire, urging it to consider ending its Word of Mouth column, claiming the anonymous submissions polarize the community.
The JEDC was without a full-time executive director since Charlie Northrip resigned in late March.
"Lance provided the best example of a person who could work with a variety of differing views and bring them together," JEDC acting executive director Kirk Flanders said.
Miller, 39, of Juneau, has a background in geology. Accordingly, he sees the chance at heading up the job-creation organization as a rare find.
"I think it's an exciting time for the state, or challenging might be a better way to put it," said Miller, who will be paid $72,000 annually. "Where are we going?"
He may be asking the JEDC board that same question soon.
The board is struggling with ever-increasing cuts in its grant from the Juneau Assembly. In fact, weaning the JEDC from the city budget entirely still is under consideration.
But Miller will wrestle with that soon enough. For now he wants to channel his international mining experience into the development of Southeast Alaska's business climate.
The two are related, he said.
"A lot of what made me think about (applying for) this position comes from my international work," Miller said in a phone interview Thursday, pointing to his experience as a projects manager for Placer Dome Inc.'s Russian operations from August 1997 to May 1999.
"In mining, to make any project happen, you have to have a holistic or interdisciplinary approach. You have to take into account social, environmental, technical and economic issues," he said. "Any business has to recognize and work with a lot of entities. l think that's quite rewarding. Even though I do love the science and technical end of geology, this is broader in scope. I always had imagined I would get into more economic development and policy issues at some point of my career."
Miller is president of the Red Diamond Mining Company, headquartered in Juneau. He said the exploration company, which targeted northern Alaska for precious, base and strategic minerals, barely has had time to get off the ground. It was founded in January.
Prior to that he was employed by Placer Dome in Russia and at Placer Dome's Donlin Creek Project in southwestern Alaska. From July 1993 to July 1997, he served as the Echo Bay Mine's chief geologist at the Alaska-Juneau Project.
Miller grew up in Idaho but spent many summers in Juneau on the ice fields. His father is Maynard Miller, director of the Juneau Icefield Research Project.
He has lived in Juneau primarily since finishing his doctoral degree at the University of Arizona in 1994.
The length of Miller's term wasn't specified, but the board was looking for a three-year commitment, Flanders said.
Flanders said gaining a UAS seat on the JEDC board was important, too.
"It was originally envisioned in 1987 that the UAS president or designee would be on the board," Flanders said.
He said it makes more sense now, in the face of JEDC's budget cuts. The university, he said, has a lot of resources that can help in the development of local and regional businesses.