Board of Trustees
Mary Jane Michael - chair
Mary Jane has been actively engaged in disability advocacy and community development for more than 25 years. She served as the executive director for the Office of Economic and Community Development for the Municipality of Anchorage where she oversaw city planning, public lands, and major city initiatives. She also served as the executive director for the Arc of Anchorage for nearly 20 years, advocating for services and legislation for persons with developmental and other disabilities. Additionally, she was the executive director for Anchorage Neighborhood Housing Services promoting affordable rental housing, home ownership, and neighborhood revitalization.
Christopher R. Cooke - vice chair, program & planning committee chair
Originally from Southern Ohio, Mr. Cooke came to Alaska as a VISTA lawyer in 1968 after graduating from Yale University and the University of Michigan Law School. He was admitted to the Alaska Bar in 1970. He lived and worked in Bethel for more than 30 years where, both as a private attorney and for 10 years as a State Superior Court Judge, he traveled extensively to Alaska’s small towns and villages. Moving to Anchorage in the late 1990s, Mr. Cooke continued to represent clients primarily from rural Alaska until retiring in 2016. Mr. Cooke’s prior public service includes the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents, Alaska Bar Association’s Board of Governors, Alaska Humanities Forum Board, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and the Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment.
John Sturgeon - secretary
John resides in Anchorage and has an extensive background in forestry, having worked for the US Forest Service, as the State Forester for the Alaska Division of Forestry, and in the private forestry sector. He also formerly served as the CEO of Ouzinkie Native Corporation. Trustee Sturgeon has served as a trustee for PNW Medical University and the Nature Conservancy of Alaska, and as a director on the Board of Forestry, Alaska Forest Association, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Resource Development Council. He was awarded the Governor’s Conservationist of the Year Award in 2017.
Verné has been the President and CEO of the Alaska Native Health Board since 2013. She is Iñupiaq and an enrolled tribal member of the Native Village of Kiana. She is a Native American Research Center on Health (NARCH) Fellow and received her Master of Public Health from Oregon Health and Sciences University. She has over 23 years’ experience in tribal health including 13 years serving on a tribal institutional review board including primary reviewer responsibilities and has served as a co-lead investigator. She is a firm believer in community-based approaches to best tap the existing strengths and resources these resilient populations already possess to garner a greater understanding of the overall health needs and priorities of indigenous peoples.
Laraine Derr- audit & risk committee chair, finance committee chair
Laraine is a Juneau resident who spent much of her career in public service. She served two years as director of the Alaska Boards and Commissions Office, where she was responsible for recommendations to the governor for 120 boards and commissions. Prior to that, Laraine was president and CEO for the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association. She also previously served as commissioner of the Department of Revenue whose duties include service on the Permanent Fund Board, Alaska Housing Finance Board, and the advisory board for the Alaska State Retirement Systems.
Paula Easley - resource management committee chair
Paula’s years of service to Alaska have come in many forms, especially in the public policy arena regarding land-use issues and natural resource development. She served as the executive director of the Resource Development Council and handled federal regulatory affairs during Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink’s terms of office. Paula was appointed to the Regulatory Fairness Advisory Board by President Clinton and the National Public Lands Advisory Council by Presidents Reagan and G.H.W. Bush.
Ken resides in Anchorage, currently in private practice as a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, brings over 35 years of professional experience as a psycho therapist, clinical supervisor, administrator, and in special needs education to the board. He has direct experience in providing marital family therapy, adolescent treatment, residential treatment, and substance abuse/prevention treatment including helping beneficiaries with opioid and alcohol addiction through Medication Assisted Treatment. Trustee McCarty has served as the President of the Alaska Association of Marital Family Therapists, a member of the State of Alaska Marital Family Therapy Licensing Board, and was an adjunct professor in the psychology department for National University in Redding, California. He has also worked, as adjunct staff to the University of Alaska, Anchorage, with the Regional Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor Training Program (RADACT) to provide counselor training across Alaska.