ABC Board hires first Yup’ik investigator in 15 years

First Sergeant James Hoelscher instructs officers at a 2014 training. (Photo By Ben Matheson/ KYUK)
First Sergeant James Hoelscher instructs officers at a 2014 training. (Photo By Ben Matheson/ KYUK)

The Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control hired a new investigator in early October. He’s the first Yup’ik investigator in 15 years, and maybe, the first ever.

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Cindy Franklin is the director of the ABC and marijuana control board, and she oversees hiring.

“I think there’s a possibility that James might be our first Yup’ik investigator ever,” Franklin said.

But Franklin can’t say this definitively, because the board doesn’t keep records on the staff’s ethnicities.

The board oversees the state’s alcohol and marijuana regulations, and licensing. Although it doesn’t require quotas for hiring certain ethnic groups, but Franklin says diverse representation is important.

“The more diverse the staff is, and the more it resembles the community the better,” she said.

Franklin says with Hoelscher’s background as a former village public safety officer in Hooper Bay, he was a competitive applicant with valuable field experience.

“Much of his understanding of interacting with the community as an enforcement officer is enhanced by his heritage,” Franklin said.

Hoelscher agrees.

He worked as a VPSO in Hooper Bay for two decades. Hooper Bay is the largest village in Western, Alaska—outside the hub community—with a little over 1,000 residents.

Hoelscher says with a community that size, you have to go about things with some consideration. It’s a philosophy he’s applying to this new job, as well.

“I guess the same type of approach in this job that I took in Hooper Bay,” Hoelscher said, “because when you live in such a small community, you have to treat the people with absolute respect.”

He says he tries to remember that kindness when dealing with license holders who may have had negative experiences with investigators in the past.

As an investigator, he enforces alcohol and marijuana laws, and makes sure license holders are following the rules.

“They immediately get a little bit of anxiety and get a little nervous because they have investigator making sure they’re following the rules,” Hoelscher said.

In one instance, a woman became really upset but he explained to her what his role was as an investigator and that there wasn’t any reason to be fearful of him doing is job, as long as the rules are being followed.

Before coming to Anchorage, Hoelscher lived in Hooper Bay working, where he worked as a First Sergeant, instructor and training officer.