By DAN FOX
Borough Manager Scott Hahn will soon be departing for a city manager position in the town of Rifle, Colorado – a move that will end his four-year tenure in Skagway.
In July of 2017, it was announced that Hahn was being considered for positions in the lower 48. Hahn said at the time he wanted to be closer to his son, who is currently in high school.
“He’s the most important reason for me to get down there,” Hahn said.
Changing jobs from Alaska to the continental U.S. is time consuming, however, and the market in Colorado is especially competitive, Hahn said.
“It’s not easy, especially when you are 3,000 miles away, you’ve applied for a job and they say ‘we don’t need to bring him down here, because there’s a thousand people down here who could do the job,” Hahn said.
Hahn had previously worked in Colorado, in the town of Salida until 2002. He then worked his way through Cordova and Petersburg, Alaska, returned home for a stint as a stock broker in 2011, and then was hired by Skagway.
Borough Assembly members and Mayor Monica Carlson thanked Hahn for his time with the municipality at a July 5 meeting.
“You’ve been blessed with great integrity, and I’ve heard from the staff that they really, really enjoy working for you, and I think they operate as good as they can under your leadership,” Assembly Member Orion Hanson said.
Rifle has 9,172 citizens according to the 2010 census, and Hahn said it has a good deal of “western heritage.”
“As you might imagine with the name Rifle,” Hahn said.
“Rifle was just a little cowboy town last time I went through there, and now it’s gotten to be somewhat cosmopolitan,” he added.
Rifle has a bit of a hand in the tourism market, and sits at the intersection of two highways that lead to major Colorado destinations like Steamboat Springs.
In addition to overseeing large projects – like the Public Safety Facility – and smaller ventures for the borough, Hahn said he feels one of his bigger impacts to the Municipality of Skagway is bringing a better understanding about borough finances to assembly members.
“So that they don’t think they can do everything, but they can do quite a bit,” Hahn said. “And to be a little more reserved in how they go about doing things.”
As he leaves the office, Hahn said housing and the future of Skagway’s port are two of the biggest issues in town.
“Housing is huge,” Hahn said.
On managing the port, Hahn said a lot of energy has been spent in different directions, but there still is no management plan for how things will be run in the future.
“That issue is stumping the assembly from doing other things, because it is it taking so much time and energy and thought process and egos and emotions, and I think once that’s done they are going to be freed up to look at a lot of different things,” Hahn said.
Having stronger property oversight at the waterfront would also be an important step forward, Hahn said.
“Right now we are basically fenced off from going in and really doing anything on our own property,” Hahn said. “And I think that we should be able to walk in at any time, sample the air, sample the ground, observe what’s going on and make sure that fits the basic operational standards that we want.”
Hahn said he has lots of fond memories of his Skagway friends and coworkers from the last four years.
“Lots of jokes, lots of laughter,” Hahn said.
One simple thing Hahn said he’s enjoyed is watching tourists climb on the train next to city hall.
“Because they don’t get to do that anywhere else,” Hahn said. “For whatever reason, everything else is walled off. They [tourists] get on that thing and the kids and even the old folks are giddy that they’re standing inside this thing, looking out the window like a conductor.”
It’s a small detail, but one that Hahn said gives him a direct connection to something the municipality has done in his tenure.
“It’s huge to me, to see that joy that those people get when they go over there,” Hahn said.
Another little detail Hahn said he’ll miss is being able to step out onto his porch and look at the Skagway skyline every morning. He added that he’s enjoyed a number of great fishing trips in the area, both on the Alaska and Canada sides of the border.
“When I retire I’m going to have a boat somewhere, in some harbor in Alaska to come up and spend my weeks on,” Hahn said. “It’s always going to be a piece of me.”
At press time, a replacement for Hahn had not been selected. Carlson said the assembly will be reviewing the job description and hiring time frame at its next meeting on July 19.