The president of the Iditarod board of directors said Friday he will not resign, despite calls from a mushing club that he do so.
The nine-member Board of Directors made the unanimous decision to keep Andy Baker at its helm. The board and staff will focus on staging "a safe, successful 2018 race" next month and will address any changes to the board after that, according to the statement.
Baker said in an interview after Friday's meeting that everyone wants what's best for the Iditarod, including himself and the rest of the board. He said the Iditarod has numerous "stakeholders," such as mushers, race fans and sponsors, and it's difficult to keep everyone happy all the time.
"We're trying to do that," he said, "but it's just juggling that with keeping in mind what is the best for the dogs, and how are we going to have this safe for the dogs and safe for the mushers."
The Iditarod Official Finishers Club, which bills itself as the "players union" for Iditarod mushers, called for Baker's immediate resignation in a letter to the board Tuesday, saying his "poor leadership" had jeopardized the sport.
The club said the "remaining members with a conflict of interest" should resign by June.
The letter followed a nine-page report by an independent consultant made public last week that said six of the nine Iditarod board members with conflicts of interest may have to resign to rebuild trust with mushers and sponsors.
A majority of Iditarod board members are either mushers themselves or have family who compete in the Iditarod, including Baker, who is the brother of 2011 Iditarod champion John Baker of Kotzebue.
The board members do not earn a salary for their Iditarod work.
Andy Baker works as a lobbyist in Juneau and said his "passion for the race" prompted him to serve on the Iditarod board, where he's been the president for the past five or six years.
He said he has always appreciated having a mix of mushers and businesspeople on the board.
However, he said, in April the Iditarod board will look at possibly removing board members with conflicts of interest, as suggested in the consultant's report.
"Everyone wants the race to do better," he said.
Wade Marrs, president of the Iditarod Official Finishers Club and musher representative on the Iditarod board, said late Friday afternoon that he had not yet received much feedback from mushers about Baker remaining the board's president.
He said the mushing club had no plans to protest the race.