By Gretchen Wehmhoff

The Alaska Marine Highway Operating Board (AMHOB), formally the Alaska Marine Transportation Advisory Board, membership roster is beginning to take shape as Gov. Dunleavy and House Speaker Louise Stutes submitted appointments.

Speaker Stutes announced Nov. 15 she was appointing Wanetta Ayers and Shirley Marquardt to the nine member board.  

Ayers previously served on the Marine Transportation Advisory Board (MTAB) and the Alaska Marine Highway Reshaping Work Group representing coastal communities from Prince William Sound to the Aleutians. She has been involved in tourism and economic development for coastal communities for thirty years and currently focuses on public policies impacting Alaska. 

“The Alaska Marine Highway (AMHS) is vital to the economies and civic lives of the coastal communities it serves,” says Ayers. 

Marquardt, a former mayor of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, has previously worked with AMHS in Ketchikan under former Gov. Bill Walker. She was a member of the MTAB, representing Southwest Alaska for nine years.

“Achieving reliable ferry service for Alaska’s unique coastal communities along with efficiencies to the many facets of this organization will be a challenge, and I believe that this board will assume its responsibilities with integrity, confidence and common sense,” said Marquardt

Dunleavy announced his  appointments of Alan Austerman, Cynthia Berns and Larry Carson on Nov. 15.

Berns, current vice president of community and external affairs at the Old Harbor Native Corporation (OHNC) was previously the vice president of corporate affairs for OHNC.

Carson is a former state trooper lieutenant at the Public Safety Academy in Sitka and has served on the MTAB.

Austerman, a former police officer in Kodiak, has also served in the state legislature as a state representative and senator. He has been on the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

The AMHOB was established in the last legislative session as a nine-member board charged with improving the AHMS short and long-term planning and accountability with the goal of efficiently providing year-round service to all of the Alaska communities served by AHMS.

AHMS has been plagued with recent years of budgetary and scheduling  issues, mechanical challenges to its fleet and changing fiscal climates.  The AMHOB is designed, with other tasks, to create continuity for the systems planning.

The board is composed of the deputy commissioner of transportation and public facilities assigned to the AHMS and eight public members, each of whom must be a resident of the state.

One member appointed by the governor must have or currently represent a union that represents employees of the AMHS. One representative of an Alaska Native organization or tribe who is from a community served by the AMHS will also be appointed by the governor. 

Six public members are included in the make up of the board: two members appointed by the governor, two by the speaker of the house and two by the president of the senate.

The union member and senate appointees will serve six-year terms, members appointed by the speaker  will serve four-year terms and the representative of an Alaska Native organization and two public members appointed by the governor will serve two-year terms.