Jeff Jabusch was appointed city manager at Tuesday’s Borough Assembly Meeting.
Jabusch has been the city’s finance director for what would be 36 years this December.
He also stepped in as interim borough manager three months ago after the departure of Tim Rooney.
Jabusch says his first order of business is to find a new finance director.
“We haven’t had both positions filled here for a while. Although we’ve been limping along, I think over a long period of time you start kind of getting behind on a lot of little things that start adding up after a while. So I think that’s the first thing—to go through the advertisement process and get someone on board here to start to learn the job.”
There are a number of hot-button issues Jabusch expects to face as Borough Manager.
Most recently, there has been controversy over the responsibilities of the Southeast Alaska Power Agency, or SEAPA and the utility of the Thomas Bay Power Authority, or TBPA.
Jabusch says he is already working with the Assembly to tackle these issues.
“The staff is helping them get information. I’m working with the attorneys to get some answers that the assembly has requested. So I think once the attorney has gotten that information back [to us], we’ll get that back to the assembly. I think that will help them formulate a plan on how they want to go forward. I think that’s kind of where we’re at.”
Jabusch says there are a number of much-needed road improvements around town he hopes to see completed.
He says making Cassiar Street more accessible to a range of vehicles is one of the priorities.
“Cassiar Street has been way overdue as far as getting water and sewer up there under the ground before we actually start paving. But of course getting pavement up there [is a priority]. We’re acquiring some land up at the end of Cassiar so that trucks and bigger vehicles can actually turn around, where now they have to back up or back down. There’s not enough room to turn around. So we’ll be doing that. Hopefully that project can go out next spring and start to move forward in fixing that.”
He also lists Weber Street as a focus for revitalization.
“We’ve partnered with the native organization and we have to do some water and sewer underneath. They have the money and the plans to pave that street. So that will be a great improvement.”
Jabusch says he hopes to continue the city’s strong relationship with the Wrangell Cooperative Association.
He says he thinks there are a lot of common interests that can come to fruition.
“A good working relationship with them has provided some really neat things here in Wrangell. So, we continue to want to work with them on street paving and other projects. They’ve been very supportive of different project that they are eligible to work on.”
He’s looking forward to more partnerships.
Looking to the future, Jabusch says he hopes to see some roadway improvements between the Ferry Terminal and the Airport. He says there are plans to begin on that project as early as 2015.
With regard to Wrangell’s marine industry, Jabusch says the ports and harbors are a great potential source for economic development.
“Of course we’ve got the 300-ton travel lift coming. I think that will offer opportunities for more larger boats that we can get in here to be worked on. And obviously, any time a boat comes up here in the yard, it’s going to take repairs. And, it’s going to take people to do that. If the owners are sticking around here, a lot of times they’re staying in the hotels and purchasing things in the hardware stores and things like that. So I think [we should] continue to try to expand the boat haul-out area.”
He says he’d also like to see a revitalization of Shoemaker Harbor. He’d like to see it become more accessible to some of the larger commercial boats.
He also says there’s a trend of smaller boats trailering up instead of getting stalls, especially at Heritage Harbor. He hopes added space will mean an influx of people staying in town rather than just passing through.
“If we can get more commercial boats in here, there might be someone who would be willing to live here if they had stall space. We need to get more fishermen, more people to town, but we need the space to put them in.”
Jabusch says he’d also like to see something done with the old mill property and the Institute property. He says they are prime areas with tremendous potential. And, they could be viable for economically lucrative projects.
Finally, Jabusch says his experience with the city’s finances will help him in his new position. He says he knows how and where the city is most likely to get funding.
“As the finance director I’ve worked closely with all the city managers over the years. And certainly as time goes on you look at the good qualities they’ve had as far as how they do different things. You certainly absorb all that over a period of time.
I’ve had several chances with the city where I’ve done the manager position for up to eight or nine months over time—several times. So I’m pretty familiar with the process of the manager.
Of course as the finance director, I think I work well with all the department heads. And in my job as the finance director, I’ve certainly worked with the public and worked with the department heads and the state and federal people. And so I’m pretty much familiar with all of those and work well with all of those. So I think I’ll have a smooth transition into the manager position.”
Jabusch begins as full-time borough manager this week.