Top state ferry manager resigns

first_imgAlaska Marine Highway System Capt. Mike Neussl addresses the 2016 Southeast Conference in Juneau. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)The man overseeing the Alaska Marine Highway System is leaving his post.Listen nowCapt. Mike Neussl said he’s departing for personal, not professional reasons. He needs to leave the state for a while to care for an ailing family member. He said he’ll miss his co-workers, but not the long hours.“It’s an important job and I clearly enjoyed doing it. But it is a stressful job and these are very challenging times and it’s not been easy,” Neussl said.That’s because state budget cuts have forced the ferry system to reduce sailings, cut amenities and reorganize some of its services. It’s happened as costs have risen and the aging fleet has needed significant repairs.“We still provide ferry service to 35 communities and have a fleet of not quite 11 ships, we’re down a couple. But we’ve kept the system going despite some very significant budgetary challenges,” Neussl said.Neussl’s final day on the job will be Friday, May 12.Transportation Commissioner Marc Luiken said a replacement won’t be chosen right away.“I’m still working with the governor to kind of lay out the plan for leadership of the marine highway system. But at least for the near term, we’re going to operate with the folks we have in the leadership positions,” Luiken said.Neussl has been a Department of Transportation deputy commissioner for a little more than two years. He also ran the ferry system in 2011 and 2012. He’s a retired U.S. Coast Guard captain who left that post in 2010 after 30 years of service.Robert Venables, who chairs the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board, said Neussl will be missed.“He obviously had a firm grip on what was happening and he ran the operation as well as one could expect under the circumstances,” Venables said.Neussl’s departure comes as a panel of stakeholders considers alternative approaches to ferry management. So far, it has recommended the marine highway change from a state agency to a public corporation.Venables staffs that effort. He said Neussl’s resignation could impact the project.“Perhaps there’s an opportunity to take a look at that position and see what could be done structurally to bring about some changes that have been looked at in this AMHS reform project,” Venables said.It’s being done under the auspices of the regional development group Southeast Conference, with support from the state and other entities.Neussl said changing the organization of ferry management is worth considering if it helps the system survive.last_img read more