Barb Penrose, administrative assistant for the council’s Anchorage office, resigned in June. Penrose had been studying towards a second career as a master sommelier, an expert in wine and other spirits.
Penrose began working part-time for the council in 1998, during her summers off from her 22 year career as a teacher of deaf children. She was originally hired to digitize and catalog a backlog of historical documents the council had accumulated. In March 2010, after Penrose retired from her teaching position, she was hired full-time as administrative assistant for the council. While in that position, she assisted with the document management, made travel arrangements, and assisted with financial matters.
In June, she moved to Brier, Washington to begin work at the Chateau St Michelle winery, and to live near her mother.
Though she loves Alaska and wished she could stay, the area just didn’t offer enough opportunity for an aspiring sommelier, she says.
Following Penrose’s departure, the council hired Natalie Novik to fill the vacant position. Novik was born and educated in Paris, and has Breton and Russian roots. Novik has a Master of Arts degree in Northern Studies from Sorbonne University in Paris.
Novik volunteered to help clean up after the multiple oil spills that plagued Brittany starting in the 1970’s. When the Exxon Valdez spill occurred, Novik was teaching in New York and already planning to move to Alaska.
Her first job here was to help open the border between Russia and Alaska for NANA Regional Native Corporation. She lived in Kotzebue for five years, regularly commuting between both sides of the Bering Strait. She also did some work in Sakhalin, Russia to help establish oil spill clean-up and prevention teams. She worked for 12 years for the Northern Forum on a wide variety of issues in the North and the Arctic, including oil spills, flooding, environmental and wildlife issues.
She speaks French and Russian fluently, as well as a little Breton.
“I am glad now to have this incredible opportunity to work for RCAC, round the corner from my home,” Novik says.