A new leader for the state-owned corporation that manages Alaska’s $73.7 billion savings account is scheduled to be selected Monday from three finalists being interviewed that day in Juneau.
Melanie Hardin, Morgan Neff and Deven Mitchell are the names of the contenders being interviewed by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Board of Trustees during the meeting scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at the corporation’s headquarters at 801 W. 10th Street in Juneau. The new executive director will replace Angela Rodell, who was abruptly and controversially fired by the last trustees last December.
An APFC hiring committee selected five finalists from applicants at a Sept. 13 meeting, then narrowed the field to three candidates following interviews Sept. 26 and 27.
“All five finalists displayed varying degrees of knowledge and experience with organizational knowledge, financial acumen, strategy, and leadership,” a summary in APOC’s agenda for Monday’s meeting states. Ultimately “the margin of difference was narrow” in selecting the three finalists.
The three candidates, in descending order of their current ties to the APFC, are:
Mitchell was appointed acting commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue on Sept. 12 by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and thus to the APFC’s trustees’ seat designated for the commissioner (the governor also appointed all five trustees who voted to fire Rodell). As such, Mitchell will recuse himself from the trustees’ selection of a new executive director since he is interviewing for the position at Monday’s meeting.
He is a Juneau resident who has been at the revenue department since 1992, and for the past several years has overseen the state’s credit rating and bond sales. He is also the executive director and treasurer of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority, a state-owned corporation that issues bonds on behalf of local governments.
”I work regularly with the executive and legislative branch of the state government and have done so for 25 years,” Mitchell wrote in response to a screening question about his familiarity with the state’s administrative and legislative processes. “I work with a public corporation, the State of Alaska, and the Alaska Municipal Bond bank, we’ve had legislature to change statutes 6 times, I navigated that process successfully and also navigated the budget process with both branches.”
In response to what most intrigues him about the executive director’s job, he described being a third grade student who met former Gov. Jay Hammond when “he took the time to talk with us and I learned the purpose of the fund and its value to our state. It was such an opportunity. It would be an honor to serve. Its project oriented which I enjoy. Its purpose – it allows for higher thinking, you can be creative, you can be thoughtful in how you implement.”
Neff has been the chief investment officer of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority since February of 2021. He has spent more than two decades as a financial executive for companies — primarily in Texas — such as Solaris Oilfield Infrastructure in Houston, an audit executive for Gibson Brands Inc. (the guitar company) and nearly 13 years for the investment company SMH Capital Advisors in Fort Worth. His resume also includes several years of work for “confidential,” “private” or “various” entities.
“What brought me to Alaska (is) it’s a formative state,” he wrote in response to what most intrigues him about the job. “There is an opportunity to create and be part of shaping the organization. Being a part of the contribution that take the state to the next level. Whether it is my current role or if it is being able to perform as the CEO of the Permanent Fund. These are things that have geared my interest and have brought me to Alaska.”
His approach for adapting to the job, in the wake of accusations by Rodell of political bias by the governor after her firing,would be to “meet with the trustees and understand the goals,” Neff wrote. “Then really understand how to do the work, understand the team…if it is going to work, you have to adapt to different personalities, mold the way you lead.”
Hardin has been the financial innovation principal for Verizon in Los Angeles since October 2020. She’s also had several overlapping financial services jobs dating back to 2010 including Strategy Chief for the “wealth management” company EQIS and executive vice president for LPL Financial. Before that she worked for six years as a division vice president of the financial services division of ADP and six years as a vice president for Charles Schwab. For all of 2015 she’s also listed as an “advisor to My Fruity Faces…on capital structure in preparation for Shark Tank appearance as contestant.”
“I’d look at other funds, look at rates of returns, their goals and assets, see if it’s applicable to Alaska,” she wrote in her application. “I’d then collaborate with the team, work with the steering group, do an assessment, get ideas, present that, get feedback, and ensure that everyone has some buy-in, that they are being heard and letting people know why we are doing what we’re doing.”
Responding to what most intrigues her about the job, Hardin wrote “Alaska, nature activity and peaceful,” and “professionally, the fund is the only fund in the world that provides to citizens. It is capitalism with altruism.”