February 7, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 6

SEAPA board to discuss group retreat

The Southeast Alaska Power Agency Board of Directors will meet in special session this week to discuss a possible junket for the five voting members to hash out organizational policy and the administrative oversight of staff members.

The board will meet tomorrow in Ketchikan to mull over a possible board retreat where Wrangell board member Brian Ashton said they would decide whether to pursue such a trip.

“Over the past year, some board members have voiced a desire to have a retreat, in order to address some foundational issues pertaining to SEAPA’s goals, vision and operations,” Ashton said. “Since it was brought to our attention that SEAPA has never created a mission statement, it seemed it was time to address that task with some draft wording that we could then take to our communities for review and input. As we have new board members this year, it will also be an opportunity to candidly discuss SEAPA’s future and bring everyone up to speed on weighty issues regarding our energy future.”

According to a source close to the board, the group had originally considered an out-of-state trip to Seattle for the meeting. That plan was scrapped, according to Ashton.

“Some of the board had discussed an out-of-state retreat. In the discussions I had, I objected to an out-of-state meeting as we should be mindful of spending the ratepayers’ funds preferably within our own communities and region,” Ashton said. “It has been suggested that Juneau may be a good place to have this particular meeting as the legislators are in session and those elected leaders may wish to meet and engage the actual board that executively directs SEAPA.”

Ashton also stated – at length – his reasoning behind making the planned retreat.

“Given the agenda for this retreat, it is the responsibility of the board to drive such executive vision and consequent direction to the SEAPA staff. It has been my observation that in the past year I have been involved in the SEAPA meetings, the board has had little formal involvement in the development of the meeting agendas. Oftentimes we have been presented with very important decisions to make with only a couple days of notice and very little time to candidly discuss the issues during the meetings, with perceived pressure to choose options presented to us. I have had a year (4 meetings) to come up to speed on enormously large issues of this Joint Action Agency and I now feel confident in taking a position that such, ‘driving’ by the staff will not be supported by this board member. If this retreat happens, and we have any pertinent questions that need staff input, it is easy enough to make a phone call and retrieve any info that is needed. Further, Wrangell has brought up some very reasonable points to consider in how SEAPA manages its affairs. I have confidence that these issues will be taken up by our partner community board members and be thoughtfully discussed and considered.”

Board member Joe Nelson, the voting member of the board from Petersburg, also weighed in on the plan to hold a retreat during the group’s regular meeting last week.

“We are discussing a potential retreat for the SEAPA Board members in order to work on our mission statement,” Nelson said. “We had a mission statement presented to the CEO that we couldn't get a consensus on so it was felt that we need to get together to decide who SEAPA is and where SEAPA is going.”

Ashton also stated that he is looking forward to more transparency in the SEAPA process.

“We currently have a dynamic board that I feel is ready to proceed down a transparent path of leadership that the communities can trust and be proud of,” Ashton stated. “It is my opinion that Wrangell currently has two committed members representing our communities’ energy needs and prepared to defend open and transparent leadership. This board member will not go quietly down any other path. Period.”

According to member Sam Bergeron, SEAPA staff, including Acteson, is inquiring about the legality of such a meeting with their counsel. No opinion on the issue was relayed to the Wrangell Sentinel by deadline for this story.

The next regular meeting of the board is set for March in Wrangell.

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