By Rindi White
John and Anna MacKinnon both planned to retire at the end of 2018, but he was tapped by incoming Gov. Mike Dunleavy to head the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. Photo courtesy AGC
John MacKinnon, the Associated General Contractors of Alaska’s executive director for the past 11 years, was feted at a retirement party in January that turned into a sendoff for MacKinnon’s new career move: Comissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities.
Dozens gathered Jan. 4 at Fox Hollow Chalet in Anchorage to celebrate MacKinnon’s hard work at the helm of AGC — and to roast him a little as he heads in a new direction.
A few attendees flew in specially to share personal stories about MacKinnon, including Bob MacKinnon, John’s nephew, who grew up “living right next door” to his favorite uncle in Juneau. Grade-school friend and later colleague Joe Smith, also from Juneau, shared stories about narrowly avoided danger while growing up.
“Being a friend of John growing up was pretty amazing — you were always on the edge of getting in trouble,” Smith said.
Former AGC of Alaska executive board president Dave Cruz related that, before MacKinnon was hired, the group struggled to get support from legislators in Juneau. But with MacKinnon’s cooperative work ethic, the group gained traction with state leaders. MacKinnon, who grew up in Juneau and previously worked for the DOT&PF, had an uncanny ability to be in the right spot at the right time to deliver a solution when AGC members needed help.
Cruz mentioned an emergency road repair job that his company, Cruz Construction, had bid. The crew wanted to get going on the project, but it was during the Christmas holiday and he couldn’t get an inspector to visit the site so work could begin. Cruz said he called MacKinnon, who happened to be sitting with then-DOT Commissioner
“He got things taken care of right now,” Cruz said.
Incoming AGC executive director Alicia Siira emceed some of the evening’s events, and Cruz was among those who said he believes the association is positioned well to move forward.
“I feel we’re in very, very good hands,” Cruz said of Siira.
When asked to speak about his tenure at AGC, MacKinnon said there were a few things that stood out over the years. There were the success stories of statute, regulation and process changes that have made things better for contractors. And there were the small things that happen under the radar.
“One I like to mention, because it shows the good relationship we have with contracting agencies,” he said, was a scheduling conflict. A DOT&PF bid was opening on the same day as AGC’s annual golf tournament in Anchorage, an event popular among contractors who might also be bidding on the transportation project.
“I called up Rob Campbell, the Regional Director, explained the problem, and after he got done laughing, he said ‘That’s the best reason I’ve heard to postpone a bid.’ And he did,” MacKinnon said.
“We couldn’t have picked a better person for the last 11 years,” said Hal Ingalls, another AGC executive board member and recipient of AGC’s most prestigious Hard Hat award.
Longtime friend Joe Smith, left, and nephew Bob MacKinnon, right, made a special trip from Juneau to join the celebration.Photo courtesy AGC
Rindi White is the editor of The Alaska Contractor