Serve Alaska Commission Members

Current Commissioners

Kathryn Abbott

Kathryn Abbott is the Outreach and Training Manager at the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development. Hailing all the way from South Carolina, Katie moved to Alaska in September of 2009 to work at the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Prior to working at SWAMC, Kathryn worked as a student research assistant in the Economics Department at the College of Charleston. She also spent a summer in Washington, DC interning in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kathryn graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Economics and a concentration in Political Science.

Date Appointed: March 22, 2013. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2014.

Tracey Burke

Tracey Burke has been an associate professor of social work at the University of Alaska Anchorage since 2003, and a core faculty member of its Center for Community Engagement and Learning. Originally coming to Alaska in 1989 as a Jesuit volunteer, she worked for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel and at a women’s crisis center in Fairbanks. Tracey has published numerous academic papers on social work topics, including Alaska Native issues.

Date Appointed: December 24, 2009. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2012.

Elaine Dahlgren

Elaine Dahlgren was appointed to the Alaska State Community Service Commission (Serve Alaska) in March of 1994 by then Governor Walter Hickel to represent the Older Alaskan sector on the commission. She has served continuously since 1994 has held several offices on the commission, and at the time of her appointment was the director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. Ms. Dahlgren has been employed by Volunteers of America Alaska since 1988, serving as CEO since 2003. She has a BA degree and completed study at Case Western Reserve University at Mandel Center for Nonprofit Management. She is active within the national organization of Volunteers of America and currently serves on their national board of directors.

Date Re-Appointed: May 1, 2012. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2015.

Justin Fantasia

Justin Fantasia came to Alaska in 2003 as an AmeriCorps member with the Serve Alaska Youth Corps, a SAGA program. Since completing his term of service, Justin has worked with the Juneau based non profit's youth training programs. Currently, Justin is the Construction Manager overseeing the Juneau School District's HouseBuild Program. As a licensed general contractor and fifteen year veteran of experiential education, Justin has helped forge a partnership between the Juneau School District, the Juneau Housing Trust, and SAGA. Together the group has provided a highly praised model for youth training and affordable housing construction. Currently they are breaking ground on their fourth and fifth affordable homes. When not pounding nails, Justin can be found prying student nails or hanging out in Juneau's Community Development Department. He is an avid mountaineer, climber and hockey player. He holds a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Date Appointed: October 17, 2011. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2014.

Kirsten Franklin-Temple

Kirsten Franklin-Temple has served as the Alaska-Washington State Director for the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) since February 2011 and has worked for CNCS since 2005. Prior to working for CNCS, she worked as a recruiter for the Northwest Peace Corps Office in Seattle. Before moving to the northwest, she was a Volunteer Coordinator for a refugee resettlement agency and a Fundraising Event Coordinator for the Children’s Museum of Richmond in Virginia. Out of college, Kirsten served for two years with the Peace Corps in Gabon, Central Africa. She also enjoys volunteering, snowboarding and spending time with her 2 children and misbehaved Australian Sheppard rescue dog.

Kirsten Franklin-Temple is the Corporation for National & Community Service Designee.

Melora Gaber

Melora Gaber has worked and volunteered as an educator for the past 25 years. Her current position oversees Head Start and Pre-School programs for the State. She has managed federal education programs for the State of Alaska for the past 10 years, most recently overseeing district programs supported through the No Child Left Behind Act, including education programs for neglected or delinquent youth and programs that provide education and support for homeless children and youth. Previously, Melora managed the school and district improvement programs for sites that failed to make adequate yearly progress as measured by state assessments. She has also managed English acquisition and multicultural education programs, comprehensive school reform projects, education for migrant children, and scholarship programs for the state. Melora began her 30 year Alaskan residency in Bethel where her experiences working and living along the Kuskokwim River sparked an interest in the field of education and developing a greater understanding of the unique challenges facing remote communities in Alaska.

Appointed September 2007 as Commission Designee for the Department of Education & Early Development.

Dawn Grossmann
Dawn Grossmann was born to a large family of volunteers; she learned early the power a helping hand can give. Dawn and her family have resided in Delta Junction since 1981; she's a counsel woman and is Mayor Pro Tem of Delta Junction. A home-schooling mother of four grown children and a grandmother of two, she has been an active volunteer in the community with The Delta Home School Association, Eagle Forum, Deltana Fair, the Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Mission for Christ, Ft Greely Chapel, The Delta Skating Association, The Delta Youth Court, the Fairbanks Crisis Pregnancy Center and several other small organizations. Dawn retired from teaching preschool after 15 years and is currently supervisor of the Weather Observers Station at Ft. Greely's Allen Army Airfield. Dawn is serving her fifth term as commissioner and served as past chair for Serve Alaska. In her free time, Dawn enjoys quilting, scrap booking, gardening, traveling, and her family and friends.

Date Re-Appointed: April 1, 2011. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2014.

Joelle Hall (Vice-Chair)

Joelle Hall is the Director of Operations for the Alaska AFL-CIO. She began her career in Alaska politics as an UAF intern for then Representative Fran Ulmer. After running campaigns in the 1994 cycle she became the Executive Director of the Alaska Democratic Party serving for the 1996 and 1998 cycles. In 1999, she opened her own consulting firm where she specialized in electoral politics and 'advocacy engineering' for public health issues and homelessness. In 2009, she came to work for the AFL-CIO.

In a previous life, Joelle was an interrogator/paratrooper in the US Army and an AFS exchange student to Honduras.

Joelle and her husband Mallie have two children and live in Peters Creek.

Date Re-Appointed: March 22, 2013. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2016.

Marianne Kerr

Marianne Kerr is an associate professor of Extension at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Based at Cooperative Extension in Anchorage, she is the 4-H Youth Development faculty. Originally from Minnesota, Marianne left to serve as a VISTA volunteer in upstate New York. After her VISTA service ended she moved to Seattle and then Anchorage in 1979. Thanks to her VISTA experience, she has continued working with volunteers in the non-profit sector in Anchorage. She is passionate about volunteerism and believes that everyone has something to give. She is a CVA, (Certified in Volunteer Administration), an international certification to recognize the profession of volunteer management. 

Date Appointed: Febuary 1, 2013. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2015.

Jennifer Lefing

Jenni Lefing has worked and volunteered in the education and non-profit sector for the past 15 years, working in communities in Alaska, Oregon, and Southeast Asia. Currently, she is a Program Manager and Community Engagement Educator for the Association of Alaska School Boards, based in Juneau. In this position, she provides support, facilitation, and technical assistance to Alaska school districts in making connections between communities and schools around Alaska to support student success, organizes statewide youth leadership opportunities, and manages the School Climate and Connectedness Survey, taken annually by Alaska school districts.

Jenni first came to Alaska as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer in 1999, where she worked for the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence to coordinate prevention programs for students in Juneau’s middle and high schools. This experience sparked her passion for education and volunteerism which led to working for SAGA, in Juneau, as Employment and Community Relations Director to support statewide AmeriCorps programs, and volunteering for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support education programs in Southern India. Currently, she volunteers as a member of the Juneau Commission on Sustainability.

She holds a BS in Human Service Studies from Cornell University and a MA in Sustainable/Community Development from the SIT Graduate Institute.

Appointed January10, 2014. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2017.

Lebron McPhail

Lebron McPhail has worked for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District since 1984. During his 30+ year career he has served as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and is currently the Executive Director of Instruction. In a district that serves over 17,000 students within 44 schools, Mr. McPhail oversees a number of k-12 schools and supervisors the principals and other support staff though schools. Additionally, he serves as the military liaison for the district, providing support for students with deployed parents. In 2006 he formed a district-wide wellness committee to tackle student obesity and comply with the federally mandated student wellness initiative. He is a staunch supporter of student learning and co-curricular activities. Mr. McPhail also volunteers his time within his community serving on a number of non-profit boards to include the Community Justice Coalition and the Alaska Family Services Board. He is a past president of Mat-Su Judo Club and continues to enjoy participating and coaching youth. As a coach he has served the Mat-Su School District by coaching football, basketball, wrestling, and track and field. He holds a Bachelor of Art degree from Eastern New Mexico University and a Master’s degree from the United States Sport Academy.

Date Re-Appointed: March 22, 2013. Date Term Expires: March 1, 2017.

Denise Morris

Denise Morris is CEO of First Alaskans Institute and is an Aleut descendant whose family is from the Pribilof Islands. She is a longtime advocate of social justice and victims' rights, the issues that often beset Native communities. Denise is a founding member of the Alaska Native Women's Sexual Assault Committee. This group was founded to answer the high rate of Alaska Native women who face sexual exploitation. Morris remains heavily involved in community activities throughout Anchorage. Some include a place with the Section 904 Violence Against Women in Indian Country Federal Task Force; Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancement and Leadership through Alliances (DELTA) steering committee; The Anchorage Community Police Relations Task Force, the Alaska Pro Bono Program, the Alaska Innocence Project, the Alaska State Commission on Community Service, Chanlyut Board, and the Weed & Seed Steering Committee.

Date Re-Appointed: May 1, 2012. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2015.

Barb Nickels

Barb Nickels has been in Alaska for 25+ years and settled in Nome in 1999. She now has a large family in Alaska including 13 grandchildren. Barb is the Director of the Nome Chamber of Commerce Meetings and Conventions Division. She also served as the President and CEO of Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation Education Foundation. Extremely active in the Nome community, Barb is a past president and current member of the Nome School Board, the Nome Preschool Association, the Nome Parent Teacher Student Association and an Advisory Member of the local Boys & Girls Club. Additionally, she was a past supervisor of the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Nome, and served as director of the Alaska Regional Development Organization (ARDOR) and Community Planning and Development Division within Kawerak, Inc. Barb is also a founding member of the Alaska Partnership for Economic Development.

Date Appointed: April 15, 2011. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2014.

Kate Powers

Kate Powers works at Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center as the Marketing and Development Coordinator. She served as an AmeriCorps member during 2010, teaching Adult ESL at the Alaska Literacy Program. She serves on the board of the Spenard Farmers Market and is active with the Anchorage Food Mosaic, which promotes a healthy food system for all Alaskans. Her favorite volunteer experience has been being a Big Sister Mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska Program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in languages from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Date Appointed: June 20, 2012. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2015.

Aryne Randall

Aryne Randall is a district manager and vice president for Wells Fargo and oversees the company’s Palmer, Wasilla, Glennallen and Valdez community banking stores. Randall has been with Wells Fargo/National Bank of Alaska for 18 years, including 12 years in the Valley. She graduated from Wells Fargo’s Alaska Management Training program in 1998 and served as a store manager in Wasilla prior to her district manager promotion in 2010.

Randall actively serves in the community as board member for Food Pantry of Wasilla, commissioner for SERVE Alaska, council member for The Alaska State Council on the Arts, and she is a member of the Wasilla, Big Lake and Palmer Chambers of Commerce. She has earned a $1,000 Wells Fargo Volunteer Service Award for The Children’s Place for four consecutive years. She has three children, one granddaughter and enjoys fishing in the summer and being a hockey mom in the winter.

Date Appointed: March 22, 2013. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2016.

Steven Ricci

Steven Ricci first came to Alaska as an AmeriCorps volunteer in 2001. After completing his term with the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association, he decided to stay in Alaska. Steve transferred his studies to the University of Alaska Southeast and completed a degree in economics. While completing his degree he had an internship with the Department of Revenue and Marine Highway system, and worked for the Forest Service. Upon graduation Steve began a career as a commercial fisherman. He began as a hand troller with an old wood boat built in 1938, and progressed into power trolling. During the winter he began working for the legislature. While Steve is not on the water or working in the Capitol he loves to travel, hunt, hike and talking about fishing.

Date Re-Appointed: May 1, 2012. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2015.

Kirsten Vesel (Chair)

Kirsten Vesel, of Seward, is a lifelong Alaskan. Kirsten is the owner of the Vesel Group and specializes in project development and project Management.  She is currently working with the Friends of the Jesse Lee Home to restore the historic Jesse Lee Home structures and develop a statewide leadership school also known as the Balto School.  Kirsten was assistant manager and public works superintendent for the City of Seward from 2005-2011, worked as contract manager for the Alaska Sea Life Center from 2003-2005, traveled around the world from 2001-2003, was a project manager for Gilfilian Engineering from 1999-2001, and was a geological/environmental technician for Marathon Oil Co. from 1995-1999.

Kirsten earned two bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and in resource management from Alaska Pacific University, both in 1996, and a master’s degree in environmental quality engineering in 2001 and another masters in public administration in 2008, both from the University of Alaska.  She is the wife of an Alaskan fisherman and has two children.

Appointed April 1, 2011. Date Term Expires: March 10, 2014.