The Orutsararmiut Native Council in Bethel has chosen a new executive director: longtime Bethel resident, and current city council member, Mark Springer. Springer is not Alaska Native, but he doesn’t think that’s a problem. He says that his experience in politics and nonprofits will help the tribe continue its goals to provide for its members.
"I’m not the only one. I’m not the only non-native in America, in Alaska, who serves in a role like this for a tribal government," Springer said.
Springer has lived in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta since the 1980s, and he married a woman from Hooper Bay. He said that working for ONC will help him learn more about the Yup’ik culture.
"I consider it a real honor that the council chose me, and I have some real big shoes to fill from past executive directors," he said.
Springer has worked in nonprofits, sits on the Bethel City Council, and chaired the state Marijuana Control Board; he was replaced earlier this year. Springer was working for ONC before he took over the executive director position.
First on his list of priorities is addressing the coronavirus outbreak. ONC passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency about COVID-19 back in March. Now the tribe is working with the city and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation to prepare for a possible outbreak. YKHC confirmed the first positive case in Bethel on Monday, April 6.
"We’re delivering meals to 100 Elders everyday, and we’re working hard to keep the drivers and the cooks safe and healthy," Springer said.
But once this pandemic ends, Springer plans to continue ONC’s goals of expanding senior services, opposing the proposed Donlin Gold mine, and working with the city. Springer also sits on Bethel City Council, but said that he will recuse himself should a conflict of interest arise.
Springer also stressed the importance of maintaining government to government relationships between ONC and the city. He took over the role from Peter Evon, who left in February to return to the Association of Village Council Presidents, Regional Housing Authority.
Springer’s first day was April 8.