Dunleavy administration dismisses Alaska ferries chief

Shirley Marquardt served less than a year as executive director of the Alaska Marine Highway System. (Photo courtesy State of Alaska)

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s top official lost her job this week to cost-cutting. That’s according to Department of Transportation officials who say Executive Director Shirley Marquardt’s last day was Tuesday.

Her annual salary – including benefits – cost $181,300.

“As with any position, terms of separation are confidential,” ferry system spokeswoman Aurah Landau wrote in a statement.

Marquardt is a former Unalaska mayor with private sector experience in marine freight and seafood.

She was hired almost a year ago to the newly created executive director position as part of a now-stalled reform initiative seeking more autonomy for the ferries. She had been tapped by Gov. Bill Walker’s administration before moving to the ferry system’s top job.

Her responsibilities now revert to John Falvey, the fleet’s long-time operations manager who reports to DOT Commissioner John MacKinnon.

The marine highway system faces deep cuts as the House and Senate meet to reconcile competing budget proposals that could see steep cuts to service this winter.

Marquardt declined to be interviewed by Friday’s deadline.

But in a speech to a seniors group last week in Ketchikan, the Ketchikan Daily News reported she expressed frustration over political meddling and said staff morale was low over uncertainty over the fleet’s future.

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