Peter Evon is leaving his job as executive director for the Orutsararmiut Native Council in Bethel, but he saw some big milestones at ONC during his nearly two-year tenure there.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a job you love.
"This was a position I had no idea what I was getting into but I had, like I said, absolutely zero regrets because I’ve learned so much. This has been the best job I’ve ever had," said Evon.
Evon has a big family with five young kids, and both he and his wife are employed.
"This job can take just a little bit more than I can handle right now," Evon said.
The executive director role at ONC is a high-profile one, and Evon is used to fielding calls at all hours of the week and attending many late night meetings after work with the ONC board. He said that while he values that experience, he’s missed cheering for his kids at a cross-country meet or basketball tournament.
Evon is returning to his old employer, the Association of Village Council Presidents, Regional Housing Authority, which is a separate organization from AVCP Inc., the tribal consortium. Evon said that AVCP RHA offered more time with his family and a chance for him to take on a challenge that he knows very well: a lack of housing in the region.
"I grew up in a HUD home and my father was one of the homebuyers of the year previously, so it’s important to me to basically make sure that I can do what I can," Evon said.
Evon grew up in Akiachak, but has since moved to Bethel. He took over ONC in June 2018, right when the tribe was becoming more public in its opposition to the Donlin Gold mine. During his first week on the job, ONC put on the first public march against the proposed mine. ONC’s board told Evon that protesting the Donlin Gold mine was a priority, but that wasn’t his only focus as executive director.
"There’s been quite a few changes. We have developed several different departments, we’ve acquired several grants to carry through for ONC that I'm hoping that will continue," he said.
Those grants include expanding its senior services, partnering with Tundra Women’s Coalition on domestic violence, and increasing suicide awareness. ONC will also relocate to a new space at the Bethel Native Corporation complex, and finally see a partnership with the Bethel Police Department come to fruition.
"We have actually drafted a joint cooperative agreement with the city," Evon said.
ONC received funding to hire tribal police officers in Bethel that would help local law enforcement. The tribe plans to discuss this draft agreement with the city at a special meeting at the end of February.
Evon said that he hopes that the projects that are beginning under him will blossom, and he hasn’t ruled out coming back once his kids are grown.
"In my mind, obviously, I’m hoping to leave this place a better place than when I found it," Evon said.
Evon leaves his post at the end of the month.