By LINDA ROBINSON
Former Outreach Coordinator
In August of 1990, shortly after moving to Anchorage from Dillingham in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, I was hired part time to assist the one employee that worked for then Executive Director, Sheila Gottehrer.
My duties were mainly administrative tasks, such as answering the phone, organizing meetings and taking notes. I also ordered furniture and portable computers (called “luggables” at that time), trained volunteers how to use the computers and handled the finances, among other duties.
We started out in the Key Bank building on 5th Avenue in Anchorage but later moved to 2nd Avenue, across from the start of the Coastal Trail. Now, of course, our office is located in beautiful downtown Spenard.
After working as the financial manager for a few years, I became the council’s outreach coordinator. This position allowed me to spread the word about citizen oversight not only in our region and at conferences all over the U.S., but also in the form of presentations in Murmansk, Russia; at the Arctic Marine Oilspill Program conference in Canada; and for Vigipol, a French citizen oversight organization created after the Amoco Cadiz oil spill, at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of that spill. Our Vigipol friends have visited Alaska twice and we are still in communication with them.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, three groups of citizens from the Gulf of Mexico region visited Alaska to acquire information on forming its own citizen oversight group. I had the pleasure of being their guide while they were in Alaska. In turn, I volunteered to spend time in the Gulf of Mexico talking about citizen oversight. We also hosted a group from Kazakstan, who had been provided with funding for a citizen oversight group.
We also produced a film called “Then and Now,” which highlights major improvements in oil spill response in Prince William Sound since the Exxon Valdez spill. The DVD has been widely distributed and was shown at the International Oil Spill Conference.
We had an education committee for a time in the early 1990’s, which dissolved in 1993. I helped reinstate the Information and Education committee after I became full time outreach coordinator. This committee is comprised of teachers, artists, scientists and a couple of techies – a wonderful assortment of enthusiastic and creative people. It has evolved into a very dynamic and productive group.
One goal of the council for many years was to involve youth in our mission. With the support of the Information and Education committee, we now have a strong program that provides funding for projects that support our mission and encourage stewardship of the Prince William Sound environment. The funding has enabled students from Exxon Valdez spill-affected communities to participate in expeditions, field trips, chum salmon incubation projects, and other educational activities. Numerous partnerships with other organizations have been formed through this project.
One successful youth involvement project has taken teachers on expeditions into Prince William Sound. Their experiences enabled them to bring back new information to their students. Our first teacher’s expedition was taught by our own board member Jane Eisemann from Kodiak.
I am very proud of the youth involvement program and am very appreciative to the committee for its support as it has developed.
In 2012, with the help of friends across the U.S., I was honored to nominate Patience Andersen Faulkner who represents Cordova District Fishermen United for the national Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award. She was one of five awardees. As a volunteer, I was able to attend this celebration with her.
In 2009, for the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, we organized a video conference that connected five communities to share in panel discussions in Anchorage and presentations from the other four communities. This event also included an art show titled “Spill: Alaskan Artists Remember” in collaboration with Bunnell Street Gallery in Homer. The theme of the show was the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. After the opening reception, citizens formed a candlelight vigil.
As I leave the council staff, I will take with me many valuable experiences and treasured memories. I have made many great friendships over the years with my coworkers and peers and have been most fortunate to be able to visit and get to know people in all of the communities that are a part of this organization. But what I will perhaps remember and miss most will be the relationships that I have built with volunteers and community members as I represented the council locally, regionally, nationally, and occasionally even internationally.
It has been a remarkable experience. I want to thank past and present volunteers, administrators, and staff for the opportunities you have given me for growth and service. I can only hope my efforts over the past twenty-three years have matched those opportunities.