(Photo courtesy of Tracy Welch)

A statewide commercial fishing industry trade group has hired the tribal administrator of the Petersburg Indian Association as its next executive director.

34-year-old Tracy Welch is wrapping up work with Petersburg’s tribe this week and starts work December 7th as executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska. UFA advocates for the industry and represents commercial fishing groups from the Bering Sea to Seattle.

Welch said she was able to attend the Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle in November with UFA members.

“It was a good chance to meet some of the board of directors and some of the fishermen from around the state and on the west coast,” Welch said. “So definitely something a little bit out of my wheelhouse but it’s going to be nice to go back to working for and with fishermen too.”

Welch grew up in Petersburg and has a background in commercial fishing, gillnetting and long-lining with her father. She went to college at Notre Dame and law school at University of Oregon. Welch served on the tribal council of the Petersburg Indian Association starting in 2017 and became council president later that year. She took over as tribal administrator in 2019.

Welch said the tribal government has really grown into a larger role over the past five years.

“The organization has really turned around and become a true partner in the community,” she said. “I think you can see that in the various services that we offer and partnership with the borough and partnership with Mountain View Food Service. You know we do a lot of trail work and we started a transit program that’s probably the high point of my time at PIA.”

That transit program offers free rides in the community to elders and people with disabilities. P-I-A also helps distribute low cost meals to seniors. The tribal government has added to its inventory of affordable housing this year and hopes to add more.

U-F-A executive committee president Matt Alward writes in an email that the board is excited to welcome Welch to the organization. 

“She may be new to UFA, but is no stranger to commercial fisheries in Alaska,” Alward writes. “Her unique background, knowledge of the commercial fishing industry, and excellent interpersonal skills will be tremendous assets to our members.”

Welch replaces Frances Leach who is leaving to start up a lobbying firm in Juneau. Several with ties to Petersburg have held the U-F-A job before, including Bobby Thorstenson and Julianne Curry.

Welch’s last day on the job at PIA is Friday, December 3rd, but she plans to help with the transition for the new tribal administrator. The tribe is still advertising that job.

Joe Viechnicki spoke with Welch about her time at the helm of PIA and her new job with UFA: