The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

AVTEC director suddenly retires


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Alaska Sen. Peter Micciche on a January visit with Fred Esposito (right) in the newly completed Marathon Hall dorms at AVTEC.

AVTEC Director Fred Esposito decided to retire last week after 17 years with the vocational education institution. Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Dianne Blumer immediately named former Alaska State Senator John Torgerson as acting interim director. According to Torgerson, who took up the post March 6, AVTEC is facing funding challenges which will require innovation to overcome.

Torgerson, a former two-term state legislator from the Kenai Peninsula, has had considerable interest and experience with legislative and administrative oversight for AVTEC while in elected office and during Gov. Frank Murkowski's administration. Most recently, Torgerson was tapped by the Parnell administration to spearhead an statewide redistricting plan that was overturned by the Alaska Supreme Court. The ill-fated plan left orphaned elected officials throughout the state, who's fate will be determined in fall elections.

Under Murkowski, Torgerson did a one-year stint at the Department of Natural Resources and then was named to review and overhaul the Alaska Marine Highway System in 2005. As a transition manager for the AMHS he faced off against labor unions to reduce personnel costs and continued personal and administration opposition to bringing fast ferries online. His stated role also extended to the creation of a new business and marketing plan that would cut perennial losses in operating the public transportation system. One of the changes at AMHS during 2005 was the cancellation of ferry service to Seward by the M/V Tustumena.

According to his description, Torgerson's role with AVTEC will be along the same lines. He says that, due to budgetary constraints, the vocational institution needs to find new sources of funding. He also said that not everyone was seeing eye to eye with the need for fundamental changes. Whether that means that there are already specifics to a plan of reorganization at AVTEC was not disclosed. Torgerson did say that he expected to be involved at an intimate level into summer while a search for a replacement executive director takes place.

When contacted at home while on leave ahead of his formal retirement, Esposito commented that it was very much an abrupt end to a 17-year career. "But I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish over the years at the school," he said. "It's an institution that is not only one of the best in Alaska, but one of the finest in the country. I'm pleased and proud to have been a part of it and just fortunate to have worked with so many great people, staff and associates."

Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Former Alaska Sen. John Torgerson on the job at interim director in Fred Esposito's office at AVTEC.

AVTEC, an accredited vocational technical school offering certificates in career fields from refrigeration to nursing, is based in Seward. It has recently undergone expansion and modernization of its facilities. In October 2010 new culinary and maritime program facilities were dedicated followed by a June 2012 dedication of a new wind turbine. A new $16 million dorm facility opened in January and is set for dedication in May. AVTEC has submitted initial plans to the City of Seward for a replacement diesel and heavy equipment shop. A request for proposals was issued in February for Phase I of the two phase, $20 million project.

"It's been a wonderful experience and I don't look back at it with anything but with just pride," Esposito concluded. "We've helped thousands of Alaskans with their career goals and the school will continue to do that. It's set up very well for the future and whoever runs the program is going to have a great school to take over and I wish them the best of luck."


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