The Iditarod Trail Committee has named the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska chief as its fifth board member.

On Monday, ITC confirmed Clint Johnson would join the four previously announced members of the Iditarod Board of Directors. 

Johnson is an Anchorage resident who has investigated more than 750 aviation incidents around the world. He is also a recipient of the Chairman's Award, the highest award granted for his long-term achievements and contributions to the mission of the NTSB.

The other board members announced on July 16 are: 

  • Nina Kemppel, an Alaska cross-country skier and four-time Winter Olympian, who currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Community Foundation.
  • Karen King, president and CEO of Spawn Ideas, Alaska’s largest advertising agency. 
  • Mike Mills, legal counsel for Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. 
  • Ryan York, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Bristol Bay Native Corporation. 

"We are excited to have such a talented group of individuals join our board of directors, said Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley. "I am confident their perspectives, experience and skill sets will be of great benefit to the ITC as we approach our 50th anniversary and prepare for the next 50 years.”

The board's makeup has been a point of contention for mushers and volunteers, who reported board members with conflicts of interests to the Foraker Group when conducting an independent review of the Iditarod's operating procedures last year. 

The Foraker Report, as it became to be known, recommended several points of change to the board; among them was a shakeup on the ITC board. 

The look of the board has also been a topic and the concern of having perceived conflicts of interests, such as relatives who are competing in the race. A change is coming, though. The Foraker report, an independent review of the Iditarod's operating procedure came out this past year. It recommended some shakeup in the way things had been done.

Stan Foo, a board member and part of the nominating committee, said in January when the report was released that those changes were being made; two seats would be added to make 11 voters.

"With the transition coming up, we anticipate three current board members will be stepping down based on conflict of interest or term expiring," he said then.

With the term limits, the board will look completely different in two years.

The Foraker Report concluded that the sponsors and mushers -- two of the most important ITC partner groups -- appeared to have no confidence in the ITC board. 

"While Foraker heard some negative comments from mushers and volunteers about some staff members, most see staff issues as the result of board action or inaction and the staff's lack of capacity," the report reads.

According to the report, a “board self-assessment” was conducted in October, examining whether board members had a clear understanding of the Iditarod’s purpose, was staffed with the “right people” to carry that purpose forward, was continuing partnerships with its major players and had sustainable sources of unrestricted revenue.

"While Foraker doesn’t question the integrity or dedication of the current directors, six of the nine have conflicts and are perceived by some as making decisions through those conflicts,” the report reads. “They may or may not be making decisions based on these conflicts, however good governance cannot be easily achieved with a high level of perceived conflict.”

Liz Thomas contributed to this story. 

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