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Ferry system gets new boss, management structure

A marine highway staffer watches as passengers with dogs reboard the ferry Matanuska before departing Wrangell. The Mat is one of 11 ferries serving 35 communities. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News

Juneau’s Reuben Yost is the new chief of the state ferry system. But he’ll spend only about half his time on that job.

Transportation Commissioner Pat Kemp named the long-time department employee to the deputy commissioner post Tuesday.

Yost will be in charge of the marine highway. But he’ll also oversee measurement standards, commercial vehicle enforcement and special projects.

Reuben Yost is the new deputy commissioner for ferries, measurement standards and special projects. DOT Photo.

“Commissioner Kemp envisions three deputies that have areas of responsibility, but aren’t limited to just one area,” he says.

Yost says the structural changes will shift some responsibilities to marine highway General Manager John Falvey. He’s been in that position about eight years.

One big job is to oversee design of the Alaska Class Ferry. Gov. Sean Parnell last month announced two smaller shuttle ships will be built with existing funds. Earlier plans called for one larger ship.

Yost says he will also work to fund and design other new ships for Southwest and Southeast service.

“The Tustumena is in need of replacement. And so are some of the original mainliners. That’s an aspect that people really haven’t focused on with the Alaska Class Ferries,” he says.

Yost replaces Mike Neussl, who was in charge of just the ferry system for about two years. Several predecessors also had that focus.

Yost has been overseeing a number of transportation efforts, including the Juneau Access Project. That would build a road north out of Juneau to a shuttle-ferry terminal across Lynn Canal from Haines.

He began his 18-year state career as an environmental analyst and manager. More recently, he’s been Southeast regional director of construction, maintenance and operations.

“I’ve kind of been involved in all areas of the Department of Transportation in terms of types of projects and different modes: rural airport projects, highway projects and some marine projects,” he says.

Yost will be the sixth person in about a decade to head up the marine highway system. He says he’s in his early 60s and thinking about retirement, but not anytime soon.

Before moving to Juneau, Yost commercial-fished out of Pelican, where he served as mayor. He says he learned the value of the ferry system while living in the remote Chichagof Island town.

He’s also worked as a teacher. His degrees are in  industrial education and zoology.

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