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Whittier city manager interviews for Unalaska’s manager position

City manager candidate Jim Hunt interviewed with the Unalaska City Council last week at City Hall.
Laura Kraegel
City manager candidate Jim Hunt interviewed with the Unalaska City Council last week at City Hall.

A candidate for Unalaska city manager visited the island last week to interview for the permanent position that’s been open for almost a year.

Jim Hunt currently serves as city manager for Whittier, Alaska — a Prince William Sound community of about 270 residents. He’s held that post for about five years, and before that, he spent seven years as manager of Seward, Alaska.

Hunt said he applied for the Unalaska job because of the potential for exciting projects and problem-solving. He said he considers it the “best opportunity in Alaska,” highlighting the island’s status as a top port for fisheries and calling it an “economic engine to the world.”

“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing how much is going on here,” said Hunt. “We — that’s the royal ‘we’ — here in Unalaska don’t have as much deferred maintenance. Looking more to new infrastructure — water, wastewater, everything involved, landfill.

“All these different issues — a lot of them are just at the genesis, which are fun just to nurture,” he said. “There’s so much going on at one time. I mean, I hate to say it, but it’s really appealing.”

During his visit, Hunt toured the community, checked out city infrastructure, and met with local residents and municipal staff. He said he was impressed by the city’s administrators and department directors, and if he got the job, employee retention would be one of his priorities.

Hunt also said he’d come with an open mind.

“The average manager coming into any town — it takes about two years just to get your feet wet,” he said. “You know, to build the relationship, understand the dynamics of the community, the industry, the culture. Anybody that just walks in, and tries to bull-rush or drive opinions or ideas, is going to fail.”

Hunt said his history as a city manager in other coastal communities in the state would help him do the job in Unalaska.

“There’s just a handful of people with the experience in all the trades, the businesses, the fishing, military, Coast Guard, you name it,” said Hunt. “And so I thought, ‘Yeah, might be a good fit here.’”

The Unalaska City Council, which hires and supervises the city manager, spent a handful of hours on Friday interviewing Hunt in a closed-door session, as well as holding a discussion afterward.

Councilors did not immediately respond to a request for comment about when they’ll decide whether to make him an offer. If he does get the job, Hunt said he’d likely keep his condo in Whittier, but live in Unalaska full-time.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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