Brennan: Government agencies adopt team approach

By Tom Brennan |

State and federal agencies have announced they will be using the team approach to the state’s current rash of difficult problems. It’s by far the best way to go and should be used more routinely.

Federal agencies working in Alaska are taking that method in responding to problems stemming from the November 30 earthquake and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s newly named Public Safety Cabinet members are going the team way to deal with Alaska’s multifaceted crime problem.

The Public Safety agency leaders include Kevin Clarkson as attorney general, Nancy Dahlstrom as Corrections commissioner and Amanda Price as commissioner of Public Safety. Dunleavy introduced that part of his team on Wednesday and described the new approach very nicely.

“We’re coming out as a package, as a group,” Dunleavy said, “because we have to start working out of our silos. We have to start working as a team.”

Presumably that mean’s all of Dunleavy’s new appointees will work as a team, as much as they can, and tackle the state’s many problems together, each bringing their own abilities and talents to bear wherever they can make a difference.

The approach is reminiscent of the hugely successful effort unleashed by the federal government after the devastating 1964 earthquake, which was many levels of magnitude worse than than the 2018 shaker. The quake on Good Friday of 1964 was magnitude 9.2, the one on November 30 was 7.0.

Alaska was less than five years into statehood in 1964 and the federal agencies were a much larger presence in Alaska than they are today. They were the best hope the state had for a recovery. President Lyndon Johnson created an organization that became the Federal Field Committee for Development Planning in Alaska. Its initial members were primarily members of Johnson’s Cabinet and the mission was to organize government agencies to work together to solve the crisis in Alaska.

The team evolved over the years but its accomplishments were many and it paved the way for things like greater development of Alaska’s oil potential, establishment of important parks and refuges and resolution of the Alaska Native land claims, which led to the organization of the regional Native corporations and gave this state’s Native community the opportunity to participate in the economy in a major way.

Joseph H. Fitzgerald was chairman of the Federal Field Committee for a number of years and became a highly respected community leader. I covered the organization’s activities when I was a reporter at The Anchorage Times from 1967 to 1969. At that time, ARCO, the company that made the oil discovery at Prudhoe Bay, was trying to handle its public relations activities from Dallas, Texas, which then involved a four-hour time difference and a matching cultural gap. (These days the time difference is only three hours and the cultural gap has closed quite a bit as well.)

The gaps prompted the company to add a community relations department to its Alaska affiliate, one that would deal with the news media and develop programs to broaden understanding of the company and get people involved in activities it sponsored.

Joe Fitzgerald was then retired from the Federal Field Committee and had finished writing its voluminous reports so ARCO hired him to head up its new community relations department. The company hired me to handle its media relations program. It was an exciting challenge so I accepted.

Very shortly after I reported to work, Joe called me into his office and said he had changed his mind about being there. He was one of Alaska’s most respected community leaders but he didn’t know much about running what was essentially a public relations program.

“I’m going to suggest you take my job,” he told me. I leaped at the chance and had a ball learning on the job. Wound up staying there 11 years and left to start my own company with ARCO as my first client.

I went back into journalism in 2000 when Bill Tobin, my old boss at The Anchorage Times, invited me to join him and Paul Jenkins as one of the three editors of The Voice of The Times, which was then running inside The Anchorage Daily News.

I was ready to get back into the journalism business, my first and lasting love, so I changed jobs once again. I’ve seen the team approach up close and can testify that it often works wonders.


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