Haines burns through yet another borough manager

Haines, Alaska


Haines has a history of stormy relationships with between its Assembly and its borough managers. This week, Haines-born-and-raised Debra Schnabel became the latest political casualty in the picturesque community along the Chilkat River, north of Juneau.

The Borough Assembly thought it might break the streak of bad managers when it went local with its pick of Schnabel in 2017.

Schnabel, from a well-known family in Haines, had recently attracted the ire of Assembly member Paul Rogers, who said that she wasn’t taking direction and she was using borough resources inappropriately. Assembly member Brenda Josephson said the complaints had been increasing about Schnabel, who had also raised eyebrows after confronting a local business owner for not wearing a face mask to protect against the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Schnabel also admitted she had borough staff sand a private road at a trailer park that she owns.

Schnabel has an attorney and says that statements made about her by Assemblyman Rogers are defamatory.

“Assembly member Paul Rogers defamed Manager Schnabel that same day in an online news story published by the Chilkat Valley News. The Mayor allowed the public to spew defamatory remarks during the meeting. At one point, Paul Rogers mimicked Manager Schnabel’s voice in a demeaning, unprofessional, and gender-discriminatory manner,” according to Schnabel’s attorney Sara Bloom of Anchorage.

Schnabel, the first woman borough manager, has asked through her lawyer to be reinstated and given due process. It appears she may be ready to file a lawsuit based on gender discrimination.

That makes at least four managers in six years for Haines Borough: Schnabel started in June of 2017 after the Haines Borough Assembly dismissed Bill Seward, who had been on the job six months. Brad Ryan, became Interim Borough Manager after Seward left, but the Assembly ended up hiring Schnabel. Another short-lived manager, Dave Sosa, had been hired in April of 2014, and lasted 19 months before resigning.

And now Haines Borough Clerk Alekka Fullerton is serving as the interim manager, making it technically five managers in six years.


  1. The chief economic driver for the Haines Borough is close proximity to the Capitol Building. A coalition of Public Radio, aging and elderly hippies (remittance people for the most part), and the village of Klukwan oppose mining, timber and tourism. That interest group and a pro-economic development majority pretty much split the Assembly down the middle. The two factions come together to oppose a road to connect Juneau and the Skagway Borough (the rival borough), and to vote for Democrats to represent them in Juneau. The Haines Borough wants to be like Gustavus, which depends entirely upon state appropriations for schools, road, airport and dock maintenance, the what suffices for local government, but no one in Haines knows how to put that Jack back in the box. (At the other end of the road out of Haines, is Tok, which shows Haines it’s possible to have state government pay for everything.) The majority of voters support opening the Constantine mine, a potential economic game-changer for Haines, but Public Radio, Klukwan, the teachers’ union, and the aging remittance people will fight to the end.

  2. Kayak,
    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and insight.

    I am one of those fighting against the the Constantine project. There are some places in our world too special to be despoiled by industry, and I believe this is one of them, and will resist until the bitter end.

    Haines is special in having incredibly passionate community members, albeit on both ends of the spectrum. I think this diversity and tension is good for a place.. prevents complacency and homogenization of culture. We’re all in this together!

    Take care and be well.

    • To play devil’s advocate- You and others do not wish the mine to be opened up, yet you enjoy the resources other parts of the state generate (oil, timber and mineral royalties); doesn’t make you and others that oppose mining.. Selfish? I have a great idea- if your area opposes resource extraction, your area receives ZERO dollars generated by other areas in the state. Fair is fair and like you said, “we’re all in this together”.

      • Herman,
        Sure, you might say human nature is selfish at the core. Hence why our current capitalistic regime prevails in place of socialist structures (no system is perfect, for the record). That said, I don’t oppose mining in theory, just in practice where it serves to destroy sensitive, spiritual and aesthetic regions of irreplaceable value. I cannot speak for others who oppose the mine. Personally, I gladly refuse proceeds from any industries that threaten the essence of coastal AK if it meant maintaining the core ecology of this place. There are plenty of areas in the world better suited to tree farming and extraction industries… however, I never stated I was against timber or extraction services across the board.. just specifically against the Constantine project and will defend against its implementation indefinitely. Appreciate your perspective.. there’s a lot of great people on both sides of the debate– let’s not let it destroy us in the process.

        • You missed the point. Haines receives state monies derived from resource extraction (oil, lumber, minerals). If you don’t want the mine in your “backyard” then be a good neighbor and refuse the state monies, otherwise you are a hypocrite.

        • Bill, thank you for your thoughtful words. Good to see some people can disagree without allowing the discussion to become acrimonious. I also agree that consumerism cannot continue because there are a finite amount of resources on Spaceship Earth. We need to quit using vehicles, use mass transportation instead, quit owning sprawling homes and live in designed cities, and we need to re-use and recycle as much as possible.

  3. I understood your point in its entirety, but we both know your position is neither realistic nor practical; not everyone in the community opposes the mine- why should the entire borough be “penalized”? Perhaps an option would be for Haines to only receive a percentage of these funds based on percentage of resident support for the mine (I already stated in my previous comment that I personally gladly refuse this blood money and am industrious (for lack of a better word) enough to fill the void with other, less abrasive revenue streams). MY point is that Alaska possess intangible wilderness assets that are invaluable and irreplaceable, and stands at crossroads to choose what economic model to embrace for the future… we as brothers must not let corporate greed rot our state from the core..

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