Bill Popp, the borough’s liaison to the oil and gas industry since 2002, will leave that job April 2 to become president and CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation.
The AEDC’s board of directors announced Tuesday they’d hired Popp to replace Bob Poe, who announced in January his intention to resign. AEDC Chair Sophie Minich said Popp was selected from a strong field of candidates.
“Bill clearly stood out among them, and we are really looking forward to AEDC’s future under his direction,” Minich said.
Former Borough Mayor Dale Bagley appointed Popp the borough’s liaison to the oil and gas industry shortly after Popp left the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly where he’d served six years, including one as its president. Popp’s job title soon added mining as interest grew in mineral re-sources at Pebble and Chuitna.
Over the course of Popp’s career in public service he has been chair of the borough’s Economic Development Corporation, project coordinator of the Challenge Learning Center for Alaska, and vice chair of the Alaska Stranded Gas Act Municipal Advisory Group. He also served as co-chair of Gov. Frank Murkowski’s Agrium Task Force, as consultant to the British Columbia Provincial Government’s Offshore Oil and Gas Team, and was a member of the Cook Inlet Natural Gas Pipeline Terminus Group.
In an interview Tuesday, Popp said his new job would be heading up the nonprofit corporation charged with encouraging growth and diversity in the Anchorage economy, adding that that would include a perspective that “what is good for rural Alaska, the Bush, and the Railbelt, is good for Anchorage.”
The AEDC press release described the job as setting “the strategic direction in marketing Anchorage to Alaska companies and global industries considering Anchorage as a place in which to do business.”
Popp said he’d be filling “some pretty big shoes,” referring to Poe, who he said took the AEDC to new levels of success, and recruited him as his replacement. The final interviews and the AEDC decision occurred last week, he said.
Energy security for Railbelt Alaska would be a key focus of his new job, Popp said. In that capacity, he added, “I will most definitely be working with the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs.” He said the decision to change jobs was a difficult one.
“It wasn’t a job I was looking for, but the opportunity was too good to pass up,” he said. “It will be hard to leave the Kenai Peninsula. We’ve been here since 1983.”
“This is a great opportunity for Mr. Popp, and I wish him the greatest success and look forward to working with him in his new position as president of the AEDC,” Borough Mayor John Williams said Tuesday.
Calling Popp “a great asset” who would be missed, Williams said Popp had elevated the borough’s role in “promoting new development in the Cook Inlet and addressing important energy and mining issues at the state and federal levels of government.”
Popp’s replacement already has been hired.
His name is Bruce Richards, who, among other things, has been a professional investigator for the Municipality of Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, worked as a criminal justice planner for the Alaska Department of Corrections a department for which he also served as an advisor and legislative liaison to the commissioner, and a legislative aid, working as chief of staff to former Sen. Judy Salo and as an aide to Rep. Mike Navarre.
“I’m thrilled to go to work for the borough,” Richards said Tuesday. “I grew up here, went to school here, and just moved back from Anchorage.” He said he’d just completed building a new house and was in search of a job when the borough position became available.
“It falls in my bailiwick. It all just worked out,” he said.
Richards starts work Thursday in order to effect a smooth transition by the time Popp leaves in April, said Williams’ chief of staff, Tim Navarre.
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