Empire editorials: This community owes MacKinnon a debt of gratitude

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

Last spring when City Manager Dave Palmer and his deputy, Donna Pierce, resigned their positions the city was left with a gaping hole in its executive office.

The burden on the city manager's office had grown over the years. The pressure and complexity of managing the city and borough's operations and dealing with increasingly contentious and difficult issues in the Assembly no doubt exacted a toll on Palmer and Pierce.

It was an unsettling time for the community, and things looked pretty dismal as the prospect of a long search for both a manager and deputy manager clouded the horizon.

The urgency to hire an interim manager capable of stepping in and taking control of a chaotic situation became the top priority.

Based on the experience gained through his long service to the community on the Assembly and service as deputy mayor, MacKinnon was chosen for the dubious honor of serving as interim city manager. By all estimation, he has proven to be a strong, capable, and effective leader. He has functioned superbly under an enormous load and without the assistance of an experienced deputy manager, and actually admits to enjoying the challenge.

However, MacKinnon, has become the victim of his own success. Because he was doing a good job, other candidates for the job felt that they wouldn't have a chance and dropped out. With the help of a couple of shortsighted city statutes, a case could be made that the best person for the city manager's job has been unfairly eliminated.

In essence, one charter restriction would create a 106-day gap when MacKinnon would be prevented from managing. The gap could be easily covered. It will take a miracle for Juneau to advertise, interview, screen, move and place a city manager within that length of time, and the city could find itself without a manager for much longer.

At the end of the day, the city will likely settle for someone from Outside who will require many months to even come close to the effectiveness and working knowledge Juneau's city government and quirky politics possessed by our interim manager.

The Assembly had the legal option to allow MacKinnon to pursue the permanent position, but politics once again got in the way of making a sound decision and the community has been short-changed in the process.

John MacKinnon rose to the challenge of managing our community through a very difficult period and performed admirably.

He is now free to move on to other opportunities. Juneau will be forever indebted to him.

Lisa Murkowski, a good choice for Senate seat

Gov. Frank Murkowski's decision to keep his U.S. Senate seat in the family by turning it over to his daughter, Lisa, has no precedent in history. However, Lisa Murkowski brings to the office serious credentials and her appointment should be considered on the basis of her qualifications and her commitment to Alaska. Lisa Murkowski is intelligent, articulate, honest, principled and independent.

Although father and daughter share similar values, Lisa's political ideology differs from her that of her father's in significant ways. Lisa is a Republican moderate and has supported a drastically different philosophy on the issue of a long-range fiscal plan for the state. The two Murkowskis take polarized positions on gun control and right-to-life issues. Lisa's record will show that she consistently sticks to her principles even if they differ from the majority line.

Lisa Murkowski has a good deal of spine and is fully capable of holding her own in the highest chamber of the land. Alaska will be well served with another strong voice in the Senate.

Don Smith



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