After 33 years working in the federal government, Joel Neimeyer handed in his work credentials to the Department of Commerce on Friday afternoon, April 20, in Washington D.C. For eight years, Neimeyer has served as the federal co-chair of Alaska’s Denali Commission, the agency tasked with funding rural infrastructure projects in the state. But he’s been with the agency much longer than that — in June 1999 he became its sixth employee.
But now the top job responsible for managing the relocation of communities threatened by climate change will be empty. And with no named successor, Neimeyer’s term is ending at a crucial moment for Alaska. Just weeks ago, when the 2018 omnibus spending bill was signed by President Trump at the end of March, the Denali Commission was awarded $30 million, half of which will be dedicated to relocating the town of Newtok.
Over the last month and right up to his final few hours in the job, Neimeyer has been busy signing his name to a flurry of documents in order to ensure the money is officially set in motion and the small coastal Alaskan village can begin the moving process.