Board of Directors

Shawn Williams

Board Chair
Vice President of Government Affairs & Strategy – Pacific Dataport, Inc

Shawn Williams is the VP of Government Affairs & Strategy for Pacific Dataport in Anchorage. He’s a 43-year resident of Alaska and former Assistant Commissioner of Commerce for the State of Alaska. Shawn is a member of the Karuk Tribe of California, earned a BA in Economics from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and an Executive MBA in Strategic Leadership from Alaska Pacific University. He enjoys traveling to warmer weather, developing his land in Talkeetna and spending time with family.

Joy Merriner

Board Vice Chair
Assurance Office Managing Partner – BDO USA, LLP

Joy Merriner is a Principal and Assurance Practice Leader at BDO USA, P.C. She has over 20 years of public accounting experience, working on audits, consulting projects, and reviews in various industries. She works with a diverse group of private companies, governments, and nonprofit organizations in Alaska and nationally. She also serves on the BDO national leadership training team. Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Education from Wellesley College and an M.B.A. from the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Jeff Shirley

Board Treasurer
Vice President of Finance – Chugach Government Solutions, LLC

Jeff Shirley is a CPA and has extensive operational and financial experience, including his current role as VP of Operations at Bering Straits Native Corporation. Having lived in Alaska for 15 years after moving from Minnesota, he brings a unique perspective to the organization. Jeff graduated in Accounting from Saint Cloud State University, combining his financial expertise with a dedication to community service to make a meaningful impact.

Kathleen Totemoff

Board Secretary
President/Founder – iExist, LLC

Kathleen Totemoff is the President/Founder of iExist, LLC, a company dedicated to saving lives and strengthening communities through innovative approaches and strategic partnerships in changing the trajectory of the opioid epidemic. Her professional focus is supporting families through their different challenges and offering proven strategies to address the root causes of many issues we face today. As a parent, Kathleen recognizes the importance of keeping our children safe and providing them with opportunities to flourish and design their own bright futures. She earned her Psychology degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage and has also completed extensive undergraduate coursework in the fields of sociology, elementary education, human and social services, and criminal justice. She lives with her family on a small homestead with her dog, goats, chickens, geese, rabbits, honeybees, and the occasional moose that wanders into the yard. Kathleen enjoys spending time with family and friends, canoeing, trips to the beach, watching her baby goats play in the yard, networking, learning new skills, and finding solutions to problems. 

Kristin English

Board Director
Business Professor and Management Consultant – Alaska Pacific University

Kristin English is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Business and Public Policy at Alaska Pacific University. She teaches a variety of business courses including finance classes, Business Ethics and Strategy. She also teaches courses on Alaska Native history and governance. In previous careers, Kristin worked in the oil industry and the non-profit sector, where she gained experience in Human Resources, non-profit program management and social enterprise. She joined the Nine Star Board of Directors as Nine Stars’ Mission to serve all Alaskans and provide services to rural Alaska is closely aligned with APU’s mission of being a leader in rural education. Kristen enjoys yoga, running, and cooking.

Tommy Leonard

Board Director
Pastor – New Season Christian Center

Pastor Tommy Leonard, III is the founder and Senior Pastor of New Season AK Church, Anchorage, Alaska. Before starting New Season Christian Center, Pastor Leonard served in the United States Air Force for 12 years. In 2015, he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Northwestern Christian University. In addition to serving on the of Nine Star’s Board he also serves as the Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the MLK Foundation Alaska. The foundation aims to promote social justice, equality, and community development.

Brian Murkowski

Board Director
President – Brian Murkowski Energy Consulting, LLC

Brian Murkowski is an independent energy consultant. He is a 3rd Generation Alaskan who has lived and worked in Alaska, the Lower 48, and internationally. In 2015, he moved back to Alaska from Spain where he served as a business development executive for Repsol.

He owns Brian Murkowski Energy Consulting, LLC in Anchorage, but has served as an international banker and energy executive throughout his career. His business includes consulting on renewable tidal and river power technologies for remote communities, oil/gas leasing, critical mineral processing mining and processing, carbon credit analysis, government affairs, project and corporate finance. He earned his BA at Villanova University and his graduate degree in International Business from Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Elizabeth Nerland

Board Director
Senior Marketing and Communications Director – Chugach Government Solutions

Elizabeth Nerland is the Senior Director of Marketing & Communications for Chugach Government Solutions, LLC. She is a lifelong Alaskan and seasoned leader with over 20 years of experience in marketing and communications. She earned a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts (BSBA) in Marketing and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Corporate Communications at Duquesne University. She has also earned her MBA at the University of Anchorage, Alaska. She believes that those who are able have an obligation to give back with whatever their resources are, whether it be time, talent or treasure. She and her husband, Drew Nerland, have four kids with whom they enjoy many adventures including homeschooling, many Alaska outdoor excursions, athletic sports, traveling, Lego building, baking and more.

Marcus Sanders

Board Director
[Title Pending] – Department of Military Veterans Affairs/CFMO

Marcus Sanders is a lifelong Alaskan; born in Anchorage. Marcus has two adult sons and one daughter currently enrolled in the Anchorage School District. Marcus is an alumnus and a graduate of East High School. He is a former Associate Pastor of the Greater Friendship Baptist Church and a former employee of the Anchorage School District. In the past seven years Marcus served in various positions which include teacher’s assistant for special education and special needs, served on the Fairview Community Council Executive Board, Shiloh Community Housing Executive Board, and is a member of the Rogers Park Community Council. He was Secretary for the UMED District 17 and Precinct Chairman for the Rogers Park Elementary School Precinct Executive Board Committee.

Marcus was commissioned as a First Lieutenant (1 LT) with the Alaska State Defense Force (ASDF – State Guard) and served as a Chaplain with the 49th Brigade based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and now has recently transitioned to serve as a commissioned officer 2nd Lieut. with the Alaska Army National Guard as a Chaplain. Marcus has recently Graduated and completed The United States Army Chaplain Corp Institute for Religious leadership Basic Officer Leadership Course, is Army branch certified, and is attending Law School.

Jennifer Schrage

Board Director
Owner – J&T Properties, LLC
President and Client Relations Director – Signature Land Services

Jen Schrage is a life-long Alaskan with deep roots in the Anchorage community. After 15 years of sales and marketing experience in radio and television, and 25 years of property management and real estate acquisitions, Jen and her husband Tim, established Signature Land Services–a leading contracting service company specializing in snow removal, concrete, and asphalt paving. She oversees major client relations, marketing, and contract management of commercial snow removal accounts along with asphalt paving contracts for commercial and residential properties. She is an outdoor enthusiast and an active volunteer with a variety of organizations including Covenant House Alaska and Junior Achievement where she received the Denali Award from JA for her contributions to the business community in Anchorage. She also serves on the board of directors for the Alaska Women’s Gold Nugget Triathlon, Associated General Contractors of Alaska, and the University of Alaska Foundation.

Ruth Schoenleben

President & CEO
President & CEO – Nine Star Education & Employment Services

Ruth Schoenleben is the President & CEO of Nine Star Education & Employment Services. She has served in many roles in the organization during her 32 years at Nine Star. She holds ministerial credentials and a degree from Trinity College in Ministerial Leadership. Her career encompasses administrative experience; community leadership; professional development training; entrepreneurial business ownership; and hands-on management know-how. Throughout her professional practice, she has served youth and adults from a wide range of socially, culturally, economically, and educationally diverse populations in both rural (15 years in Yakutat, AK) and urban settings. She loves music, teaching, and mentoring. She especially values time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

David S. Alexander, Ph.D.

Non-Voting Board Member Emeritus
Founder – Nine Star Education & Employment Services

What is now known as Nine Star Education & Employment Services, Inc. had its foundation in 1976 as a broad-based, training institution sponsored by the Commission on Postsecondary Education and led by Dr. David S. Alexander. In 1978, Dr. Alexander became the president of a private, non-profit corporation, known as the Northern Institute. It eventually merged with an education non-profit in Fairbanks known as the Social Intermediate Technology Assistance Corporation (SITACOR), Inc. The merged entity’s name was officially changed to Nine Star Enterprises, Inc. in 1988.

Dr. Alexander, whose Ph.D. was in reading and language development, is a nationally renowned educator and trainer whose innovative instructional approaches (including videotaped literacy training, peer monitoring evaluation, systems analysis of teacher training services, and workplace literacy) have been adopted by many other states. In addition to being Nine Star’s president, he provided teacher training throughout the State of Alaska and taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Alaska Pacific University. Among other things, Dr. Alexander served as the Chair of the Northwest Regional Literacy Resource Center Board of Directors; wrote GED/Adult Education curricula; produced and directed over 30 educational television programs including CINE Golden Eagle Award winners Tundra, Taiga, and the Impact of Man on the Environment; and was a strong community advocate for “education for work.” After almost 42 years of working to improve the quality of life for under- and unemployed Alaskans through education and employment services, David retired to Arizona.