Ketchikan has made strides since the last go-around of holidays.
With Thanksgiving Day less than a week off, it’s timely to take stock of the community’s accomplishments.
And it was the community that largely propelled the right people into action in order that the First City might welcome cruise ship passengers this past summer and fall.
The “right people” in this case proved to be the Alaska congressional delegation, led by its senior senator Lisa Murkowski in the U.S. Senate and most senior member Don Young in the U.S. House of Representatives. With Sen. Dan Sullivan’s support, it was all hands on deck.
The delegation delivered the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, a feat of much magnitude in terms of its swift cruise through Congress and to President Joe Biden’s desk. This happened at the behest of a Republican delegation in a Democrat-controlled Senate and House. That’s power that proved itself and brought the Alaska cruise industry and the community out of the doldrums.
Many merchants and industry officials expressed their appreciation for a season of any length. As it turned out, Ketchikan had ships from late July to late October. Plus, independent travelers, including sport anglers, came to town in what appeared to be strong numbers.
The Ward Cove Dock Group kicked into action after it became apparent a cruise season would be had.
Then, for several weeks it welcomed Norwegian Cruise Lines’ passengers to the cove for the first time ever. After which, it resumed redevelopment of the old Ketchikan Pulp Mill site.
The state Department of Transportation and Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s airport-related improvement project advanced significantly in recent months.
The project — which is still underway — involves both the Revilla and Gravina Airport Shuttle Ferry Facilities and upland improvements. It encompasses both sides of Tongass Narrows.
On the Revilla side, a new ferry terminal is being built and the old one refurbished. North Tongass Highway improvements are remarkable, as is the expanded parking space, the pedestrian sidewalks and motor vehicle driveways.
The additions also will include a building where passengers can wait for the ferry, whether for departures or to meet arriving locals and visitors. Meters for payments also are installed.
On the Gravina side, both a new ferry terminal and a rebuild of the existing ferry terminal are included, along with improvements in pedestrian walkways and roads for motor vehicles.
Other completed capital improvement projects hold a prominent place on the list for which Ketchikan can be grateful. The list includes, but isn’t limited to, the Ketchikan Indian Community’s headquarters re-siding, Women in Safe Homes’ new building and the opening of various new small businesses.
Other strides for Ketchikan are evident in its leadership. Not only is there no shortage of elected officials with passion for their public pursuits, but the community, when the need arose, had three qualified women who stepped in to fill big roles in local government.
They aren’t alone amongst women with significant responsibility, but these are noteworthy. It’s fortunate they were available when they were.
Lacey Simpson, the assistant city manager, has been managing the city in recent months while the Ketchikan City Council bid a heartfelt goodbye to the late Karl Amylon and began the formal process of finding a replacement.
Melissa Johnson took the helm of Ketchikan School District as its interim superintendent mid-year, knowingly taking on huge challenges while the Ketchikan School Board started the hiring process for a permanent administrator.
The borough also promoted Cynna Gubatayao, the government’s former finance director, into the position of assistant borough manager.
Finally, but still only one of many reasons Ketchikan can be thankful, the school district has nearly managed to hold a whole semester of school with students in the classrooms as opposed to being remote.
This has been possible because of precautions — masks, social distancing, hand washing and similar hygiene procedures, as well as staff vaccinations and the beginning availability of shots for students.
The semester hasn’t been without hiccups, but the precautions proved substantially effective.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of what Ketchikan has for which to be appreciative. But it highlights obvious specifics.
For these and other accomplishments, Ketchikan can be thankful.