Gov. Palin appoints pair from peninsula

Fisler, Geisler named to state committees

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2007

Two women from the Kenai Peninsula are among several Alaskans that Gov. Sarah Palin named to state boards and commissions this week.

Suzanne E. Fisler of Kasilof is one of three people named to the Natural Resources Conservation and Development Board.

Meanwhile, Homer resident Joyanna Geisler is one of six tabbed to sit on the Governor's Committee on Employment and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities.

Fisler recently retired from her job as a ranger with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources after a career spanning 28 years, according to a press release from the governor's office. She was a ranger on the peninsula and chief ranger on the Kenai River, worked a natural resources specialist, and served as the department's representative at the multi-agency Kenai River Center which is where she was reached for comment Friday, filling in answering phones.

Aware of a vacancy and asked to consider it, Fisler said yes to a three-year term, though she acknowledged not yet having a clear vision of what she might accomplish.

"After many years of working on resource issues for the state, primarily on the Kenai Peninsula and the Kenai watershed, I became very interested and concerned with development trends and the potential for resource damage and improper use of the resources," she said. "The board seemed a good place to learn more about what's going on statewide."

She said she was keen to learn what others across the state were doing with regard to agriculture, grazing land and forest products, the central concerns of the five-member resources board.

Comprised of land users, the board makes recommendations to DNR regarding the orderly development of those economies. It also makes recommendations on the use or disposal of land and resources, represents the state in local, federal and state soil and water conservation programs, and serves as the board of directors for the Alaska District Soil & Water Conservation Board for areas not organized in local conservation districts.

Fisler has received numerous awards for public service from the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, the Alaska State Troopers Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement and DNR. She is a graduate of the Anchorage Municipal Police Academy.

She and her family live on her husband's family homestead and farm near Tustumena Lake.

Geisler has served as executive director of the Kenai Peninsula Independent Living Center in Homer for the past 17 years. Before that, she directed the Independent Living Center program at Homer's Community Mental Health Center from 1986 to 1991. She is treasurer of the State Independent Living Council, and several years ago won the Governor's Award from the very committee to which she has now been named.

"It was an honor to be appointed," Geisler said Friday.

For people with disabilities, having a paying job is the ultimate form of independence, Geisler said. Seeing that Alaskans can access rehabilitation and employment services and land those jobs is the main mission of the Governor's Committee on Employment and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities. Its members represent the broad array of state public, private and nonprofit services and advocacy organizations serving Alaskans with disabilities.

"It is a policy-setting board, I believe. I am envisioning it helping me, as a service provider who has direct contact with consumers, make some changes from the top down or at least have some input."

Among the things she hopes to see is the state trying more creative ways to help people with disabilities find employment, especially in the smaller communities.

"More entrepreneurial; work doesn't have to be 40 hours in five days a week. It could be part-time, or self-employment," she said.

She said she is also interested in finding new ways to make the transition to adult life smoother for youth living with disabilities.

The Independent Living Center has three offices in Homer, Soldotna and Seward and serves about 900 clients. The client lists seems always to be growing, she said.

"It goes up every year. But while the demand increases, funding stays the same," she said.

On that score, Geisler said she hopes she'll now be a more effective voice in support of increased funding, or perhaps a different distribution of available money.

Geisler holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Utah, and a special education teacher certificate from the University of Montana. She was appointed to a seat reserved for a representative of the State Independent Living Council.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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