Emergency management head leaves

Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2000

For most Kenai Peninsula residents, Aug. 25 will be just another Friday, but for John Alcantra, it will be the last day of his employment at the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Alcantra, the emergency management coordinator for the borough, has announced his plans to resign and move to the Matanuska-Susitna area with his family. He said because of fire and flood seasons, it was hard to pick a day to leave.

"There is never a perfect time to leave," Alcantra said. "There really is no desire to leave before Aug. 25."

His wife, Rosetta, took a position as executive director at the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council, a nonprofit organization providing technical assistance to 36 tribes and first nations along the Yukon River. She will move to the Anchorage area June 1 with the couple's 4-year-old son. Until her husband leaves Soldotna, they will see each other only when their jobs permit.

In his 3 1/2 years as emergency management coordinator, Alcantra's duties have been to coordinate response, recovery and preparedness of both natural and man-made disasters.

Besides overseeing the 911 budget and its dispatchers, Alcantra also supervises Project Impact -- a natural disaster prevention program funded by the Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency.

Under his leadership at the Office of Emergency Management, many projects have been accomplished. Alcantra said he is most proud of the Community Alert Network, a program alerting the community in time of disaster; raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money; and the $5 million flood mitigation project in Seward.

He also is proud of getting a disaster declaration for the peninsula from President Bill Clinton in the wake of February's storms and avalanches, as well as leaving an updated Kenai Peninsula Borough Emergency Plan for his successor.

He said the plan is necessary to be prepared for every possible disaster that can occur in the borough.

"We have the right recipe for (any disaster) to happen on the peninsula," Alcantra said.

He said the peninsula is the place to go for a general overview for emergency management.

"This is the hot bed for disaster management," he said.

He said the biggest challenge facing the borough in the future is keeping the public educated, because it has a tendency to become lethargic about emergency preparedness.

A lifelong Alaskan, Alcantra said he has come to know the Kenai Peninsula better, with its 25,000 square miles of area and the 50,000 residents, through his job as emergency management coordinator.

Alcantra said moving is a good thing for his family. They will be closer to other family members in the Matanuska-Susitna and Anchorage areas.

Currently, Alcantra does not have a job waiting in Anchorage, but he's not concerned about it.

"I am not nervous about it, yet, " he said.

He said he wants to try to refocus on project management and complete multi-million dollar projects. He also would like to find employment within a commutable distance, closer to his family.

"I'm going to stay somewhere close by," he said.

Though he is moving to a larger city, Alcantra said he does enjoy the small-town aspect of the Kenai Peninsula and has not ruled out someday returning.

Moving from the peninsula is "like leaving part of you behind," he said.

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