Alaska News

Former Aleutians museum director resigns from Unalaska City Council

In a fast-moving chain of events, an Unalaska City Council member resigned and a new one was appointed in less than a week.

On Tuesday, May 24, Zoya Johnson announced her resignation, effective the next day. Applications for a replacement were accepted until Friday of that week, and on Saturday, May 28, at a special city council meeting, John Waldron was appointed from among four candidates.

The first candidate nominated, Fernando Barrera, narrowly failed to win the four votes needed, with Frank Kelty and Yudelka Leclere opposed. He was supported by David Gregory, Alejandro "Bong" Tungul, and the council member who nominated him, Roger Rowland.

Kelty's nomination of Shari Coleman died for lack of a seconding motion. Gregory then nominated Waldron, who was approved unanimously, by a 5-0  vote. The fourth candidate, a newcomer to Unalaska, retired engineer Ronald Kell, received no support.

Leclere said she heard from 47 local residents, and 46 favored Waldron, while one supported Barrera. She said the Waldron supporters were concerned about the other candidates' ties to the fishing industry. Both Barrera and Coleman are employed by UniSea.

Leclere said later that of the 46 Waldron supporters, 38 also favored City Treasurer A.B. Rankin, who is retiring. But Rankin said she wasn't interested, because she hasn't yet retired, and when she does, she wants to spend her time away from the city government, where she has worked for the past 40 years.

Johnson's resignation from the council, while surprising, was not totally unexpected. Last year, she resigned as executive director of the Museum of the Aleutians, after antique religious books from the museum were found in her home. And more recently, she has been criticized for attending numerous meetings from out of town, by teleconference. A new policy, adopted by the city council last year, allows council members to attend telephonically, with the mayor's permission. The council lifted a ban on telephone participation because of difficulties getting a quorum of four members at meetings, the minimum number required to conduct business.


Waldron, age 52, currently works in the maintenance department of the city school district, and also for Aleutian Electric. He is a former Unalaska police officer who has lived in the town on two occasions, from 1987 to 1994 as a private contractor, and then from 2005 until the present. Last year, he ran for an Unalaska City Council seat, but was defeated by Kelty. Gregory said his last council candidacy was an important consideration.

Barrera is UniSea's facilities maintenance supervisor, a 20-year Unalaska resident and a member of the local school board.

Coleman said she has been an Unalaska resident since the mid 1990s, and is a property owner and owns a small business. She is employed by UniSea as the environmental compliance supervisor.

The city council took two other actions at the special noontime meeting on Saturday.

The council authorized spending up to $4,078,000 for the expansion of the Light Cargo Dock, on Ballyhoo Road, also known as the "pot dock," because crab pots are loaded onto fishing vessels there.

The Light Cargo Dock Expansion Project is out to bid and the bid opening is scheduled for June 15, according to City Manager David Martinson. The contract needs to be awarded by July 1 to keep construction scheduled with a July 1 starting date, and completion by Nov. 30, he said.

The council also approved Mayor Shirley Marquardt's travel to the Arctic Ambitions V Conference in Anchorage June 23-24. The mayor was invited to be a featured speaker at the international business conference at the Sheraton Hotel, sponsored by the World Trade Center Anchorage.

The WTC started the conference five years ago to address investment, infrastructure development, transportation, natural resources, trade and innovation, according to Alex Salov, WTC business operations manager in Anchorage. He said the port of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor is "falling right into the scope of this year's conference.

"It would be very beneficial for our audience to hear more about the port located at the gateway of the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage," Salov said in his May 26 invitation.

The mayor told the council that she's ready to go.

"I have four Power Point presentations that I tailor to fit the issues and the audience when it comes to the anticipated opening of the Arctic with its opportunities, challenges and risks," Marquardt said, adding that plenty of travel money is available. "The mayor and council travel budget can easily handle this travel at the end of the fiscal year."

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.