Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rachel Morse, Interim UAA Alumni Board Director, First Redistricting Board Executive Director Interview

Image from UAA
The first candidate to be interviewed by the Board was Rachel Morse.  She's worked with Rural Cap, Alaska Soil and Water Conservation, and currently at the UAA Alumni Board.

The interview was changed to an open meeting after a request from the Anchorage Daily News.

WARNING:  These are my very rough notes - they get the gist, but not the exact wording and there are gaps.  Plus I'm doing this through the online connection from Los Angeles. 

Redistricting Board - March 14, 2013  Executive Director Interviews

10:54 am
Roll Call:  Brodie, Greene, Holm, PeggyAnn McConnochie, Torgerson
all here
approval of agenda

PeggyAnn McConnochie: adopt with changed interview schedule

Torgerson: Item 5 legal review, just a moment for Mr. White, people who withdrew their names.
We had open meeting request.  People who apply for high public official job open for public disclosure act.  Had from ADN, contacted all people who submitted applications and advised them that had to be disclosed unless they withdrew their applications. One withdrew. Another, from Fairbanks, withdrew because didn’t know it was temporary.  Unclear if interviews are open to the public, interpreting rules, we determined in public interest to have interviews open, but when board discusses the individuals we will do that in Executive Session.  Some had issues with personal issues like phone numbers being public.  Mr. Mauer didn’t have problem redacting personal information.  Mr. Mauer has redacted copies.  Other copies of resumes available for others. 

Torgerson:  We will interview 3 people today instead of five.

The first will be Rachel Morse  and expect to be through around 2pm

We have a few prepared questions, then I’ll ask a few then the board can ask.

1.  Aware job is temporary in nature, we need a director until the work is done.  Time line based on Court system.  Everything undetermined at this point.  Need approved plan for election by June 2014.  Hopefully wrap up Board’s work by then, but additional issues for Executive Director.  Not full time position that lasts forever.  Are you familiar with what the Board’s doing?  Followed in media, online? 

Morse:  I’ve followed it. 
Torgerson;  Walk us thru your managerial experience . . .staff here was 3-5, part time GIS guy and an assistant director and Mary out front.  Not a large staff.  Supervising and working with the Board and press.
Morse:  Managed 4-5 people. Now Alumni relations has 1 person under me, going to expand.  Design positions, job performance, putting people on and off probation.  Gamut of working with staff.
Torgerson: Consensus builder?  Story of difficult situation you managed yourself out of?
Could have some conflict here.
Morse:  Any time there’s conflict, putting all the info out is good, direct and diplomatic, when dealing with personalities and emotions, part of the equation is important.  First at Rural Cap one person had trouble with getting his contributions out.  Helped design meetings so he could be heard.  He’s been promoted 2x now.  Someone with good skills and just worked hard to give him space. 
Positions where we had to rewrite position descriptions and ended up letting go the original person because he was a match for the original position we thought we needed, but not for what it really was.  We were able to work with him and keep good relations.
Torgerson:  Thanks for the answer, a good description of a dicey situation.  What about dealing with press?
Morse:  Not personal responsibility for press releases, but getting background information for releases.  Controversial nature of a project at Rural Cap had to talk to the press . . .
More aware now because of that.
Torgerson: One concern - knowledge of cultural diversity and geographic regions of the state.  Run us through things you’ve worked on.
Morse:  Alaska Soil and Conservation district employee.  Volunteer board of directors, managed by non-profit.  Lots of complexity, different in Lower 48 - hi ag.  In Alaska, Fairbanks Palmer, Wasilla were similar.  I had the Alaska District, all the rest.  Small staff.  Worked with tribe on Kobuk River, required Fed to Fed to Fed relationships and communities.  Lot of community meetings in those communities.  Cooperative area in Juneau to deal with noxious weeds, taking it to community in Juneau.  Rural Cap 80-90 communities, my job in the office, but well aware of all the different communities.
Torgerson: OK, next series - applicant’s knowledge of state’s travel policy, open meetings act.
Morse:  It’s been a while.  I see there’s training for that and that’s what I would request.  Have to have the policies right there with you as you do it.
Torgerson:  That’s legit.  What about administrative procedures act? [didn’t seem to wait for an answer, just went on] Next series working with the Board, since we’re broadcasting can you explain experience with Boards.
Morse: . . . Bird Treatment Center . . .,  Director of Alumni Relations at UAA work with the Board, Currently on Rural Community Assistance Board.  Joined that Board in Feb.  Been member of local associations - Forestry, Board of my church.  Conducted meetings to support presidents.
Torgerson:  Drafting agendas?
Morse:  Yup, can draft agendas, minutes, etc.  . . .
Torgerson:  Sounds like you have a lot of experience.  Last series, notice not technically proficient with GIS, big part of our job.  What are your computer skills?  Excel?
Morse:  Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Office, different data bases - donor relationship base.  Putting together results of data base - meeting with different software vendors when leaving Rural Cap.
Torgerson:  Much on Website development?
Morse:  More on putting stuff up on the website.
Torgerson: We have a website, more on putting it up.  You’ve had experience?
Morse:  Yup.
Greene:  You mentioned Kobuk area, what else?
Morse:  Mostly Kobuk - Western Alaska, did a lot with Rural Cap - building youth resiliency, more awareness of issues than hanging out there.
Greene:  How would you rate yourself working. . .?  [Can’t hear clearly. ]
Morse:  Interesting question.  Sometimes Executive Director even with small staff has to make decisions, execute plan.  Can I build a team, lead a team,  build consensus?  Yes.
Holm:  Rachel, thanks for coming in.  Curious.  What do you expect to do with this short term job and why do you want to do it?
Morse:  I was going to ask you guys about first part.
Holm:  But you have a job now, and you want to change the job.  I want someone who can accomplish something.
Morse:  I expect something that gets something done and makes a difference.  I plan to learn a lot, make a lot of contacts, get more exposure than current job.  I’m in an interim position that will end in June, then my job becomes a  full time position at UAA and I’ve also applied for that.  Good to be one of the first employes hired to make things get going.  Opportunity, look at what is out there, and I think it’s interesting, nuts and bolts of how it happens.
Holm:  What would you do if offered the University job full time at first of June, because we won’t be able to do anything until US Supreme Court renders its decision after June 1.
Will you leave in June if you get the UAA job?
Morse:  [long pause] - I need to know more about your time line.
Torgerson:  US Supreme Court will make a decision on the VRA and if it’s unconstitutional, it will change what we do.  Then our main controlling document will be the AK constitution.  What Mr. Holm is referring to.  We have set our meeting in early May and then come back in July or August after the SC rules.  You’ll still be here working. 
Morse:  When are you looking for this position to start?
Torgerson:  We expect you to have to give two weeks notice and as you mentioned need to come up to speed on software, we are interested as soon as possible.
Morse:  You’re expecting a year right?
Torgerson: A year, right.  If SC says you don’t have to do that it could be a couple of months, then back before the trial court.  If everything lines up perfectly, we might have DOJ approval by Feb. 14, if everything goes smoothly.  We have no control.  Trial court back to SC - our best guess, might have approval from DOJ early February.  Then a couple of months closing down the office.  Then be here until end of June.
Morse:  If I were hired for this position, I’d probably drop out of candidacy for the other job.  No way to accommodate both jobs.
Torgerson:  Others?
PeggyAnn McConnochie: Also about learning software - the ARC program - how comfortable are you learning that.
Morse:  I’m comfortable learning new technologies.  What kind of numbers are you talking about?
PeggyAnn McConnochie: ???
Morse:  Let me be clear . . . I’d need training. My question, taking people who don’t use the software already and getting them good enough to make the maps, is that what you’re asking?
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  no we all have learned to use it, just need to work with it.
Torgerson:  It’s complicated, but user friendly.  We all learned it.  I’m not totally proficient on every option.  Other members can.  Our GIS expert and ED were good.  Teachable skill.  Peggy asked if you are a quick learner.
Morse:  ???
Torgerson:  Totally autonomous from the state, state pays our bills and that’s it.  We hae our own legal counsel, software, borrow a GIS expert from DofLabor.
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  You need to learn the software and work with us.
Morse:  Interesting such a technical skill to have all the Board members learn the software.
Torgerson:  we had to, and with the open meetings act - two of us, but not three, can work together outside of meetings.  My experience it’s a good sounding board for all the members and ED to do their own thing.  Then we’d ask for their support on how to do it.
Greene:  Travel . .. ????
Torgerson:  Now, I don’t anticipate travel on moment’s notice, but could be travel to DC, to DoJ presentation and answering questions in person.  Planned well in advance.  Not like tomorrow need to jump on plane. 
Morse:  Love to travel, I don’t mind.  A moment’s notice is tricky.  Either work or not. 
Torgerson:  Possible DC if still required for pre-clearance.  Did you answer when you could start?  Two weeks notice with UAa.
Morse:  Four weeks notice with UAA.  When decide?
Torgerson: We’ll finish interviews and not sure when decide.  Hope to know this afternoon.  Won’t notify until tomorrow, maybe tnight.  Like to see start sooner than later if we find the right candidate.  I hear you say 4 weeks from date of notification.
Morse:  ??
11:33am Torgerson: Other questions?  Other questions?
Morse:  What does day-to-day look like? 
Torgerson:  In current process, daytoday would be working on a map to comply with SC ruling.  Initially, we’ll bring someone in to help you with the software - past ED - first week really big learning curve.  Expect person to work with the board to hire a GIS person so we have three people - Eric Sandberg at Department of Labor.  2nd person would be full time with us.  Familiarize yourself with SC ruling - need to know it in detail.  We want to comply with it.  We’d look to you for advice on how to comply.
Morse:  Good legal counsel on this?
Torgerson:  Not sure how good.   [laughter ]  We’d expect you to ask Mike White - we don’t have a filter on that.  Supreme Court’s mandate.  Daily job to get us a map and plan to get us to that sweet spot to get court approval.  My time line has us doing some work in April or May, could push that.  After SC rules in July or August we’ll come back and stay.  However much time it takes that’s what we’ll do.
Morse:  State or Board employee?
Torgerson:  Board employee.  Paid by state.  No contact with Governor.  Only with his administrative director and payroll person.  They arrange our travel through the governor’s office.  department of Administrative service I think.
Morse:  No benefits? 
Torgerson:  There are benefits.  i don’t know if things you’re doing with alumni board carry over.  But there are state benefits.  We don’t have our own employee manuals.  Their procedures on evaluations.  That would be your job.  OK so far?  We didn’t scare you away? 

Rachel, I guess there are no more questions.  Thank you.  We’ll call you with Board’s decision either late this afternoon or tomorrow.
Mary, our next one is 12:30.  What did you decide?  We’ll go off the record and our next interview with Laurel Hummel at 12:30, so we have an hour until we start up again.  Time is 11:40. 


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