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Randall Burns is new president of Retired Public Employees Association

The executive board of the Alaska Retired Public Employees Association appointed Randall Burns as president “for the time being” at a special meeting Aug. 6.

The position had been vacated after the previous president, Sharon Hoffbeck left, writing a scorching letter on her way out the door about the way she had been treated. The position is a volunteer role in the organization that looks out for the rights of retired state employees.

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Read: RPEA president quits with scorching letter

RPEA bylaws only allow a regular member (i.e., an actual public retiree) to hold the office of president and the organization’s executive vice president, Brad Owens, is an associate member (i.e., spouse of a regular member), the board appointed Burns until an election is held. 

“It is important for RPEA to have a valid, designated president who can manage the organization in consort with the executive board, and who can fill the unexpected vacancy of the RPEA office manager. I find myself in this position without previous service on the board, having just been elected to the position of Communications Director, effective July 1,” he wrote.

The organization is in the middle of a lawsuit with the state over the diminishment of promised medical benefits to retirees in the defined benefits tiers of service, which date back to the early days of statehood when it was hard to find people to come up to Alaska to grow the state.

“I agreed to the appointment as President because I care about this organization and, at 74 years old, absolutely understand its importance to public retirees,” he wrote.

Burns began working for the state in 1976 with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, helping to develop the agency during what he described as “its difficult start up years.”

“I left APOC in late 1979, as its Executive Director, leaving after the agency had recovered from the tumultuous (Hickel v. Hammond) election bout of 197,” he said. After those three years of State service, he worked in various other jobs in and out of public service, including:

– Special Assistant to both Attorney General Harold Brown and DHSS Commissioner
Myra Munson (through 1987)
– Division Director, Occupational Licensing (through 1990)
– Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union, AK Office (through 1994)
– CEO, Alaska Psychiatric Institute (through early 2003)
– Executive Director, Alaska Small Hospital Performance Improvement Network, an affiliate of
the Alaska State Hospital & Nursing Home Association (through 2010)
–  Psychiatric Emergency Services Coordinator, Division of Behavioral Health (thru 2015)
– Division Director, Behavioral Health (thru September, 2018)

“I know I speak for the Board when I say that we appreciate that these past few weeks have seen organizational disruption and some criticism of the RPEA Board itself. As we stated in our letter to the general membership in late July, we want you to know that the Board understands and is here to promote the mission and objectives of the RPEA and that the Board’s focus has been — and always will be — on those principals. 

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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