Alaska House Speaker Louise Stutes on Monday appointed Shirley Marquardt and Wanetta Ayers to six-year terms on the new Alaska Marine Highway Operations Board. Both previously served on the Marine Transportation Advisory Board.

The board, which replaces MTAB, was established by the passage earlier this year of House Bill 63, a bill that Stutes, a Kodiak Republican, introduced in the last legislative session.

"This nine-member board, along with other elements of the bill, were designed to improve the Alaska Marine Highway System’s short and long-term planning, accountability, and increase efficiency with the goal of providing robust, year-round service to all of the communities served by AMHS," according to a Monday press release from the Alaska House Majority Coalition.

Marquardt represented Southwest Alaska for nine years on MTAB. Former Independent Gov. Bill Walker appointed her executive director of AMHS in 2018; Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, dismissed her from that position in May 2019.

Per the announcement, Ayers represented coastal communities "from Prince William Sound to the Aleutians" as a member of MTAB and the Alaska Marine Highway Reshaping Work Group commissioned by Dunleavy in 2019.

One spot on the board is reserved for the deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation that oversees the marine highway. That position is currently held by Deputy Commissioner Rob Carpenter.

The governor, House speaker and Senate president each appoint two public members to fill six of the eight remaining seats on the board. Those public members must "collectively have experience in enterprise, architecture, business operations, financial management, risk management, logistics, supply chain management, engineering, project management and controls, marine operations, strategy, regulatory compliance, ship maintenance, construction, and repair, quality management, continuous improvement, sales, marketing, communications, customer interface, or experience management," per the language of the bill.

The board also must include a representative of an Alaska Native organization or tribe who is from a community served by the AMHS; and a representative, working or retired, of a recognized union for AMHS employees. Both of those positions are appointed by the governor under law.

On Nov. 5, Dunleavy appointed Cynthia Berns, Larry Carson and Alan Austerman to the board.

Carson, who previously served on MTAB, "was once a State Trooper, Lieutenant at the Public Safety Academy in Sitka," according to Dunleavy's Nov. 5 announcement of his appointees. Austerman represented Kodiak in the state House and Senate as a Republican and served on the board of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Both are serving on the operations board as public members.

Berns, who is the vice president of Community and External Affairs at the Old Harbor Native Corporation, is the board's Alaska Native representative.

According to the state's membership roster for the operations board, Dunleavy has not yet made an appointment to represent an AMHS union.