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Goucher to helm SE Conference

PETERSBURG (KDN) — When Southeast Conference launches the second phase of its project to reform the Alaska Marine Highway System, Ketchikan's Chelsea Goucher will be at the helm of the organization.

Goucher, 29, is set to take over as president of the economic development nonprofit's board of directors when the annual meeting in Petersburg concludes on Thursday. She'll succeed Sitka resident Garry White as president.

Goucher first became involved with Southeast Conference as the executive director of the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, but has since taken a job in Ketchikan with Alaska Marine Lines.

She sees her role in two ways — keeping Southeast Conference on mission in phase two of its project, which will create a 25-year operating plan for the ferry system, and keeping its membership united during the Alaska Legislature's 2017 session.

"Obviously there's already some agreement here, that the system is broken and we need things to be fixed," Goucher said on Wednesday. "If we can just stay united and on that page, I think that we'll have a loud enough voice, I hope, to get the Legislature to buy into the changes we're trying to implement."

The group and its members have launched what could turn into an ambitious list of reforms for the ferry system. Most of the changes likely require the approval of the Legislature and Gov. Bill Walker, and some might require statewide popular votes.

She said the reform project dovetails into the state's financial crisis.

"This is a piece of solving that puzzle in a way that's going to allow people not to just lose service and lose something that's really important to their communities," Goucher said.