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Young chief blazes trail for Rampart revival

  • Author: Dermot Cole
    | Opinion
  • Updated: July 18, 2016
  • Published July 12, 2016

Floyd Green receives a leadership award from Doyon in February 2016. From left, his father, Doug Green; Floyd; mother Patty Wiehl and grandmother Elizabeth Wiehl. (Doyon photo)

As a 16-year-old high school student in Fairbanks, Floyd Green wouldn't stop pestering Carole-Ann Newcomer for a job.

"He had so much persistence," said Newcomer, the property manager for Doyon Ltd. in Fairbanks. "He never gave up. That really impressed me."

Green's repeated calls seven years ago led to part-time work during the school year as an administrative assistant and full-time summer employment. "He was my right-hand man," she said.

"I think the sky's the limit for him," Newcomer said. "Every opportunity that he saw he would see it through with no loose ends."

"Even from that young age, it was apparent he has the heart of a chief," said Newcomer.

It's not just the heart. He also has the title.

Green's family is from Rampart, about 100 miles northwest of Fairbanks, but his family moved to town when he was a child because there was no work in the village. Growing up, he wanted to return to Rampart, however, not content with just spending summers along the Yukon River.

A graduate of Effie Kokrine Charter School, Green moved back to Rampart in 2012, first helping care for his grandparents.

"My inspiration was always my grandpa," Green said. "Everything that my mom and dad taught me came from him, how you have to provide for yourself and your family and always work."

At 21, he was hired as the tribal administrator. One of his early tasks was to draft an agenda for a meeting of the newly reconstituted tribal council meeting.

"One of the agenda items was they needed to appoint a first chief because there was no first chief," he said. "They appointed me."

Floyd, the son of Doug Green and Patty Wiehl, said the Rampart population had dropped to eight people when he first moved back home. There were no jobs and few prospects.

As a newly minted chief, he set out to save the dying village, using skills he had learned from Newcomer and others about how to deal with institutions, process paperwork, win grants and turn the situation around.

The population has recently climbed to more than 50, he said, and things are looking up in Rampart.

The biggest challenge was to reopen the village school, which meant attracting enough young families back to the village so there would be at least 10 children enrolled.

In 1998, the Legislature changed the school funding law to require a minimum of 10 students, which led to a 15-year shutdown of the Rampart School.

Green managed to get the school reopened last year with close to the minimum enrollment, a major milestone.

Green said he contacted tribal members, many of whom had moved to Fairbanks for work, letting them know of his hopes for the village and offering incentives.

"The village council also offered a relocation agreement, which paid for families' moving expenses to come to Rampart if they obtained employment with either the village council or TCC (Tanana Chiefs Conference) and they had one child enrolled in the Rampart school," he said.

Green is hoping to attract additional families with young children, continuing to look for various grants that can be used to promote village projects, housing and employment. He was able to get funding for a health aide for the first time in 15 years, developed a community plan, got two new generators, fixed equipment to improve drinking water and repaired power poles.

The school, one of more than 50 across the state with an enrollment of less than 20 students, is an essential element in the survival of the village, he said.

"The school is what holds our community together," he said.

For the coming school year, the village is working to transfer from the Yukon Flats School District to the Yukon-Koyukuk School District, as residents were not happy with the support from Yukon Flats.

School district attorneys are trying to sort out an interim plan to keep the school doors open until the Legislature can consider a boundary change next year.

Kerry Boyd, the YKSD superintendent, said "the needs of the students will come first to ensure that they receive a quality education no matter which district provides the services."

Green said he is also looking at other ways to promote economic development, including completing the road to connect the village to the Eureka Road, north of Fairbanks, which would provide better access and future opportunities.

The state has a separate project to complete a pioneer road connection that would end near the village of Tanana, which is about 50 miles downstream from Rampart.

Green's success has not gone unnoticed. The Doyon board gave him the Chief Andrew Isaac Leadership Award in February and in March he gave the keynote address at the Tanana Chiefs Conference annual meeting.

"After being closed for 15 years, it's been a long road to recovery, but we're back to stay open," he said of the Rampart School. "I'd like to encourage the villages of Birch Creek, Stevens Village and Evansville — there's still a chance to reopen your schools and revive your communities. Don't ever give up."

"We have come this far and we will always work harder to make it farther," he said.

He said he wanted to thank "my parents, my grandparents and my aunties for raising me to be a hard worker and teaching me the values of life."

Victor Joseph, the president of the regional TCC, said Green's leadership is "a story of how you can take a community, surround yourself with a few good people and make changes."

"He went into his community when there was a population of about eight or nine, the school has been shut down for years, the clinic was closed with no health aide and there was very little jobs," said Joseph.

"What a powerful young chief," said Joseph.

Columnist Dermot Cole lives in Fairbanks. The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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