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Protecting Alaska's Cook Inlet watershed and the life it sustains since 1995.
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A Message to Supporters from Board & Staff

Posted by Bob Shavelson at May 16, 2011 03:50 PM |
A message to Cook Inletkeeper's members and supporters from the board and staff.
A Message to Supporters from Board & Staff

May 16, 2011

Dear Friends of Cook Inletkeeper,

With your help, we have built Cook Inletkeeper over the past sixteen years into a powerful advocate for Cook Inlet, its watershed and the communities and fish and wildlife it sustains. During the last half of 2011, Cook Inletkeeper will be taking steps to strengthen the organization so it can take on the increasingly complex challenges facing the Inlet in the coming years.

In 1995, Inletkeeper’s founding Board adopted the Waterkeeper model for organizational structure and management. That model created a “super position,” combining all nonprofit management and program functions within a single position. This structure made sense at the time, and it has served Cook Inletkeeper well. However, as the organization and its budget have grown, and as the complexity and diversity of conservation issues has expanded, this model has placed too much burden and responsibility in one person. His responsibilities encompass the traditional “Executive Director” role carried out in most nonprofit organizations, in addition to the responsibilities of an Inletkeeper who is protector of and spokesperson for the Inlet.

After careful review, we have concluded we must pursue a more enduring organizational structure that will strengthen Inletkeeper’s advocacy capacity while also bolstering its fundraising and personnel management abilities. Generous grant support from the True North Foundation has enabled Inletkeeper to make these critical changes.

The current Inletkeeper job duties fall into three general categories: program oversight, fundraising and human resources. The Executive Leadership Transition process will gradually and carefully move the Inletkeeper position into a role devoted solely to advocacy work, leaving in place an Executive Director to oversee fundraising, human resources and non-advocacy program work.

At first, the new Executive Director will work closely with the Inletkeeper, other staff and the Board to understand in depth the programs and internal systems that enable those programs to perform at a high level. After an appropriate transition period, the Executive Director will take on responsibility for financial management, personnel management, development and our research, monitoring, drinking water, and clean boating and harbors efforts.

The Executive Director and Inletkeeper will work as colleagues and both will be supervised by the Board of Directors. This is a system that has proven effective in many other Waterkeeper groups in the United States. Those groups have been able to establish stable, long lasting and effective leadership through investing authority for advocacy in the Waterkeeper, and authority for administration and other management functions in an Executive Director.

Those other Waterkeeper boards have established very clear lines of responsibility for each position and have had very little difficulty in adjusting them as experience dictates. We expect the same result with Cook Inletkeeper.

So that there is no false assumption about this decision, let us make it clear that Bob Shavelson has been the main inspiration and architect of this change. He intends to remain as Cook Inletkeeper for the foreseeable future, and this transition will enable him to be even more productive as the advocate for the Inlet because many of his current responsibilities will be taken on by the new Executive Director.

We welcome both your questions about these coming changes and your help in seeking a strong hire for the new Executive Director position. The job description is available at Please feel free to distribute it to anyone you think would be a good fit for us. If you have any questions or suggestions, don’t hesitate to send an email to Bob at

Thank you for your support of Cook Inletkeeper. We look forward to working with you in the coming years.

Yours for Cook Inlet,

Benjamin Jackinsky, President
Cook Inletkeeper Board of Directors