The Marijuana Control Board needs yet another member for its public safety seat after Travis Welch, who lost his position as police chief of the North Slope Borough, resigned from the board ahead of his confirmation.
The process next is an online call for applicants and a look back at past applicants who have sought to fill the five-member board’s public safety seat. State law requires the person be employed in that sector, which could be a firefighter, paramedic, village public safety officer or police officer.
The other four seats are designated for industry (two seats), public health (one seat) and rural Alaska (one seat).
“We will review other applicants and online (new) applicants to try to fill the seat before the legislative session ends, since they need to go through confirmation hearings,” said Shalome Cederberg, the assistant director of Boards and Commissions.
Welch said he’s not sure why his appointment as police chief was rescinded by new North Slope Mayor Harry Brower, who was elected in November.
According to his February letter to Welch, Brower said he wanted to “make changes” in the borough.
“I was in Anchorage attending a conference. I’m a mayoral appointment, so all they had to do is send a release saying I’m no longer an appointee. That’s all I was provided, the letter,” Welch said.
Welch served 10 years with the North Slope Borough Police Department after first traveling there with his family of four children and his wife after he graduated from Alaska State Trooper Academy. He advanced from officer to police chief over that decade.
In the midst of figuring out what to do next after getting the borough’s letter of dismissal, Welch received another phone call. This came from an assistant to the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee asking if Welch could discuss the schedule for his legislative confirmation hearing to the Marijuana Control Board. It was set for March 15.
“It was at that time I notified them that I was released,” Welch said. “I was told that you have to work in public safety in order to serve in that board position.”
No public safety job means a person is not qualified for a public safety seat on the MCB, according to Alaska statute.
“I really enjoyed the one meeting I was able to attend (in January in Juneau),” he said.
Welch was already in the middle of reading the packet for the meeting in April 4-6 in Nome.
“I really looked forward to serving. When the governor asks you to serve, you serve. For the past almost 10 years, I’ve been grateful to serve the people of the North Slope. Now I am looking at all the options,” Welch said.
One is to consider keeping his family and career in Alaska, he said. The other is to move out of state.
The Alaska Police Standards Council was also notified of Welch’s removal, said Executive Director Bob Griffiths.
“That’s just procedural. We are notified anytime an officer separates from their agency — quits, retires, is terminated,” Griffith said. “We get a form and it usually has a check mark on it about why they left. It’s the way we track the personnel across the state.”
It’s back to square one in the nomination process that began Jan. 4, when Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik resigned from the board after serving since its creation in 2015. He did so after the U.S. Justice Department shifted its policy on marijuana enforcement, believing it removed protections of the state’s legal marijuana industry.
Welch was chosen from two applicants at the end of a 14-day open application period to the Alaska Boards and Commissions Office.
Prior to moving to Alaska and pursuing a master’s in criminal justice, he graduated with an economics degree from Brigham Young University.
The only other nominee at the time was Leonard Wallner, a veteran Alaska State Trooper in the Mat-Su, now retired. Among the cases he worked was the Robert Hansen murder case back in the early 1980s.
“I threw my name in the hat; as far as I knew that was the end of it,” Wallner said of applying to the MCB. “I’m retired but I work part time for a Native nonprofit, director of security at Chugachmiut. I work part-time on purpose because I’m full-time retired from the state.”
If he gets the chance, Wallner said, he’d be happy to fill the seat.