SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE 101
The mission of Southeast Conference is to undertake and support activities that promote strong economies, healthy communities, and a quality environment in Southeast Alaska.
Southeast Conference was incorporated in 1958 to lobby for a regional transportation system that eventually became the Alaska Marine Highway System. After that success, we stayed together to continue to advocate for issues that are key to the southeast region as a whole. Our goal is to help develop strong economies, healthy communities, and a quality environment in Southeast Alaska. We look for consensus and areas that we can work together for the betterment of the region. Southeast Conference has one permanent, full-time employees our Executive Director Robert Venables. We are the federally designated Economic Development District for the region, as well as the state designated Alaska Regional Development Organization.
We have more than 185 member organizations & individuals. We have members from nearly every community, chamber of commerce, and economic development organization in the region. Our membership represents most municipalities, federally-recognized tribes, businesses, government agencies, organizations, and many individuals located or doing business in Southeast Alaska.
We have eight committees at Southeast Conference—including Transportation, Energy, Marine Industry/Seafood, Visitor Industry, Timber, Mining, Economic Development, and Solid Waste (www.seconference.org/committees)—along with approximately 160 committee members. The committee structure allows Southeast Conference to operate as a “grass roots” structure. Our committee members suggest advocacy, letters of support, resolutions, events, and issues we should be tracking. These recommendations are passed along to the Board of Directors, who consider these suggestions. The committees are a place for advocacy, discussion, regional networking, and ultimately set the agenda for Southeast Conference as a whole. Each committee is chaired by a Board Member. Committees develop their own goals and objectives, which become part of the regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (www.seconference.org/strategy).
Southeast Conference is governed by a Board of Directors. The Board manages the affairs of the organization between annual membership meetings. They review and take action on recommendations from the various committees, and they provide direction to SEC staff on implementation of the work plan, and approve any interim resolutions or other official communications for the Conference. The Board is comprised of 13 members, of which five (5) members must be municipal representatives elected or employed by their communities, or federally-recognized tribal representatives elected or employed by their organization, a minimum of five (5) members must represent the private sector and three (3) members are members-at-large, representing any member entity. The Directors are elected by the membership at the Annual Meeting.
The Annual Membership Meeting is traditionally held during September in one of the member communities (other than Juneau). All members and non-members alike are encouraged to attend this dynamic three-day event. Top municipal and business leaders gather to chart of the course of the region. The event includes two days of presentations, a scholarship auction, a business meeting, a banquet, a community reception, and much more.
During the Legislative Session, a membership meeting is convened in Juneau to assess progress on work plans and to evaluate specific legislative issues. We attempt to gather all of our Southeast Legislators in a roundtable discussion, so members can have direct contact with them. Committees also meet face-to-face at this time and a Board meeting is also held.
Resolutions and Advocacy Letters
Resolutions and advocacy letters are typically are submitted during committee meetings. The committee can discuss, change, reject, or approve resolutions. Approved resolutions are considered at the following board meeting. Board approved resolutions and letters are posted on our website and distributed as appropriate.
Membership resolutions are similar, but are submitted by various members prior to the Annual Meeting. If they are submitted in time for assignment to a committee, and are approved by the Board for consideration, they are placed in the packet of proposed resolutions distributed at the beginning of the Annual Meeting. If they are submitted after the cutoff date (August 15th), they must be endorsed by 5 members and submitted the first day of the meeting. The Board then meets to consider whether they should be referred to committee and processed, or whether they can simply be added to the list of resolutions to consider at the annual business meeting. The Conference has specific requirements for resolution submission that are posted on the website. During the Annual Meeting, all of the committees have an opportunity to meet, hear presenters, and deliberate as a committee on proposed resolutions. The recommendations of the committees, related to specific resolutions, are then put before the membership at the annual business meeting on the last day of the conference. The membership votes on resolutions at the Annual Meeting, and adopted resolutions are distributed and posted on the website.
The Board President calls meetings monthly and sets the agenda with assistance from staff. The Board considers resolutions, letters and action items were developed by the committees in the previous month. Most meetings are via teleconference. Each meeting also includes a current review of the financial status. Some issues are raised at the Board level without committee referral, at the call of the Chair, generally because of urgency in timing or prior process already initiated.
Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
Our designation by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration as the Economic Development District requires us to have a five-year regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to identify regional priorities for economic and community development. The CEDS 2020 Southeast Alaska Economic Plan is a strategy-driven plan developed by a diverse workgroup of local representatives from private, public, and nonprofit sectors. Over the course of 12 months, 27 workshops and strategic planning meetings Southeast Conference members developed an overall vision statement, a list of six goals, 47 objectives, 8 priority objectives, and regional and industry specific SWOTs analyses. More than 400 people representing small businesses, tribes, native organizations, municipalities, and nonprofits were involved in various elements of the planning process.
Marine Transportation Advisory Board
In 2002, Governor Murkowski adopted a Southeast Conference suggestion to form a citizens’ board to advise the Alaska Marine Highway System, by Administrative Order. Southeast Conference is usually heavily represented on the Marine Transportation Advisory Board, whose primary function is to provide the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner with advice on long-term strategy for building more cost-effective and efficient systems, while attempting to improve service to our served communities. Along with our very active Transportation Committee, this affiliation positions us well to influence the decisions that affect the long-term viability of the System.
The Nominating Committee (comprised of the Past-President and no less than 3 Southeast Conference members-in-good-standing) meets to make certain that a slate of candidates is presented to the membership that will comply with our corporate Articles and Bylaws. In addition, they strive to insure geographic, cultural, and gender diversity in the slate of candidates. This means making sure that all areas of the region are represented, that Native communities and people are represented, and that there is an appropriate mix of male and female members. At each Annual Meeting, a 2nd Vice President is elected from the current Board members, which involves a commitment to serve the following years as First Vice President, then President, and then Past-President. This results in a four-year commitment, and the term of the elected 2nd Vice President is adjusted accordingly.
Annual Business Meeting
At the Annual Business Meeting, the new board members are announced, the 2nd VP is elected, resolutions are voted on, and membership advises the Board on direction for the following year.
Southeast Alaska Conference of Mayors
Southeast Conference assisted an ad hoc group of mayors from member communities to gather and provide a unified voice on issues of common interest in 1995. Since then, Southeast Conference staff has assisted mayors with convening periodic meetings in various member communities. The mayors choose a chairperson, who sets their agenda and suggests letters of interest or support to be considered by the group. Southeast Conference frequently includes a Mayors' Meeting at both major meetings and provides administrative support as requested.