Passengers from the megaship Norwegian Joy disembark in May 2019 at Ketchikan’s Berth 3 downtown. (KRBD photo by Leila Kheiry)

Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to discuss exactly what it wants out of a proposed city position focused on the tourism industry. 

Whether Ketchikan should hire a tourism manager has been a topic of discussion for at least a year. Former City Council member Judy Zenge, who didn’t seek reelection this fall, floated the idea during a discussion about the future of Ketchikan’s port last November. 

“We need a ports and harbors director, but we also need someone that manages tourism and that works maybe with the ports and harbors person, but that answers to the city manager — that takes a seat at the table when we’re going to be doing things like scheduling and contracts and how we manage that whole economic driver of ours,” Zenge said.

The discussion followed Juneau’s decision to hire its first tourism manager in 2021. Council members have pressed city management several times over the past year to make the position a priority, but short staffing and turnover — including in the manager’s office — have hampered the effort.

Now, with a new city manager in place, the council is renewing its push. At a meeting last month, council member Mark Flora said he wanted the city’s elected leaders to flesh out what they’re looking for.

“I’d particularly like to see from the council, quite frankly, the definition of what that is. What is it that this position would entail?” Flora asked at the council’s Oct. 20 meeting.

That’ll be the subject of a work session Thursday evening. 

In a memo to the council, new City Manager Delilah Walsh outlined the nearly two-decade planning process that led to Juneau’s decision to invest in a tourism manager.

“The objectives of that office were made clear in all planning documents and task force recommendations. Essentially, the position was created after a comprehensive planning process,” she wrote.

Ketchikan’s separate borough government is in the middle of creating a blueprint for the future of tourism in Ketchikan. But no such process exists at the city level. 

So Walsh is posing a long list of questions to the council, separated into four categories: the purpose of the position, how the tourism manager should partner with stakeholders, the qualifications necessary for the job, and, of course, what exactly they’d do 40 hours a week. Walsh says she’s looking for the council to come to consensus on the best way forward.

The work session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday in advance of the council’s regular meeting. Members of the public have a chance to weigh in at the beginning of the meeting. City Council meetings are livestreamed at the city’s website and on local cable channels.