GCI executive killed in crash called a 'brilliant strategist'

Paved way for company's growth.

August 10, 2010 

Dana Tindall, the General Communication Inc. executive who died in Monday's plane crash in the Bristol Bay region, was a major figure in Alaska's telecom industry.

Some of her business colleagues credit her for a major role in bringing competitive phone service to Alaska.

Tindall's work on GCI's behalf is a major reason why Alaskans have a choice in telephone companies, said Nan Thompson, a former state regulator who now works for Enstar Natural Gas Co.

Thompson called Tindall a "brilliant strategist."

GCI spokesman David Morris said Tindall, 48, was instrumental in growing GCI from a small startup long-distance phone company to its current status as one of the state's largest companies.

"There are very few things at GCI that don't have her fingerprint on them," Morris said.

Tindall's daughter, Corey Tindall, 16, also died in the crash. Her survivors include her husband, Virgil Peachey, and her son, Connor Tindall.

"Our hearts are with Dana's family," said GCI president Ron Duncan.

"Dana and her daughter Corey were a big part of our GCI family and we are devastated by the news of their passing," he said.

A RAPID RISE

GCI was born about three decades ago as the U.S. phone monopolies started breaking apart.

The company, which began offering long distance in the 1980s and has since expanded into local phone service, Internet, cable TV and wireless devices across the state, generated $596 million in revenue and a $3.5 million profit in 2009, according to its annual report.

Tindall started working for GCI when she was in her early 20s and remained there for 24 years -- almost the entire life span of GCI, which started doing business in 1982, according to Morris. Since 1993, she had served as GCI's senior vice president of legal, regulatory and government affairs.

"She rose very rapidly through the ranks simply because of her abilities," said GCI senior vice president Richard Dowling.

"We fought a lot of battles together, and won most of them -- the important ones. She was a good friend and had a beautiful family. She will be very much missed," Dowling said.

On the basis of her work at GCI, people sometimes assumed that Tindall was an attorney. While she supervised GCI's legal team, she did not go to law school, Dowling said.

"I think she was too busy for that," said Dowling.

He said he once gave Tindall a button that read, "I am not a lawyer."

MASTER OF THE FIGHT

Tindall joined GCI a couple of years after she graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in economics and master's degree in public policy, and she quickly became a key figure in the so-called "phone wars" that gripped the state telecom industry for the next few decades.

"Most people don't remember the world when you didn't have your choice of phone companies, but that's how her career started," Thompson said.

Starting in the mid-1980s, GCI began fighting to offer long-distance phone service in Alaska. At the time, Alascom Inc. had a monopoly on long- distance phone calls. That ended in the late 1980s, and GCI quickly gained customers in the state's population centers, particularly Anchorage.

The next fight was for GCI's entry into local phone service in Anchorage, a bitter battle with the city-owned telephone monopoly that was waged before arbitrators and in court rooms, regulatory halls and the state capital through much of the 1990s.

Tindall was a key GCI strategist in this ultimately successful fight, and local service since has expanded within Alaska.

"Understanding telecommunications law and regulations is a very esoteric and disciplined science, and she had that science down pat," said Dave Harbour, former chairman of the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.

Tindall had served as an adjunct professor of regulatory economics at Alaska Pacific University, and was a past board member of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp. and the Alaska Council on Economic Education.


Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.

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