Government Contracting Pioneer Carolyn Craig Shaped Company We Are Today

Published January 2020

Carolyn Craig was instrumental in the development of government contracting for Ahtna from 2000-2010. She and her team built our government contracting foundation. Her story shows that change can occur when an individual has a vision and inspires others with their energy and enthusiasm. She was a champion for forming new 8(a) companies and utilizing the tools that were available to Alaska Native Corporations in securing government contracts. She launched the 8(a) program at Ahtna and Ahtna’s first 8(a) contract, janitorial work at a military base hospital, was won under her leadership. Many of Ahtna’s subsidiaries wouldn’t exist today had it not been for Carol’s foresight to drive the company in that direction. She was responsible for bringing in several very large contracts that have been successful for Ahtna and continue to be legacy contracts for current subsidiaries.

Carol was passionate about government contracting and Ahtna’s place in the industry and influenced others by teaching them what she knew. “I came from a shipping and oil industry background and she assisted me with the nuts and bolts of government contracting. She also encouraged me to seek outside education to further my knowledge and skills as they relate to government contracting,” said Ahtna Support and Training Services/Ahtna Logistics President Vicky Dunlap. Vicky and other staff that worked with Carol took the time to reflect on those formative years.

Vicky began as the Business Administration Manager for Ahtna Development Corporation and Ahtna Technical Services, Inc. (ATSI). Carol was the President of ATSI at the time and in the process of forming Ahtna Facility Services, Inc. (AFSI), and they worked quite extensively together at the former Fireweed office in Anchorage. Vicky describes Carol as dedicated, caring and concerned about the well-being of Ahtna and its shareholders. She was also a great mentor to the employees that worked for her and looked out for them. “Carol had a positive attitude. She was always cheerful and smiling. If you didn’t understand something, Carol was very patient and thorough in clarifying her instructions. She explained a lot of the Ahtna culture and way of life to me. It was a pleasure working with her and she’s someone that I really respect. I always look forward to seeing her at the Annual Meeting and getting one of her great hugs,” shared Vicky.

Board members Margie Ewan and Nick Jackson have known Carol since 1977 when they all worked together out of Ahtna’s former Copper Center office. Nick hired Carol as a bookkeeper and Margie was the office assistant at the time. “She was hardworking and got along well with everyone. Teamwork was important to her and she wanted to make sure everyone had the chance to chip in. Gaining 8(a) status was quite an achievement and the work it brought in kept Ahtna alive,” shared Nick.

“She’s a tireless and dedicated Ahtna shareholder. She was extremely dedicated to her work. We would work through the weekends to make sure bids went out. She was very motivating. To watch someone be that dedicated encouraged me to work harder too,” said Margie. “She opened the door for all the 8(a) contracts we have today.”

AFSI Senior Program Manager Chris Smith has known Carol for almost twenty years. In 2001, Chris was the President of Government Services and often saw Carol at executive meetings. They were co-presidents of two of Ahtna’s biggest companies at the time, with Carol focused on service contracts and Chris on environmental and construction. Ahtna was about a tenth of the size it is today, and her efforts helped the company to grow. Chris described Carol as supportive, informed and easy to work with. She was also intense and hardworking, but at the same time easygoing. Ahtna, Inc. Accounts Payable Manager Goldie Jokela met Carol in 2000 when they were both starting out with the company. Goldie had accepted a position as an Accounts Payable Technician and Carol had recently helped form ATSI. At the time it was a small but tight-knit team at Ahtna. Goldie describes Carol as a smart and strong woman that she has a lot of respect for and thinks of often. “She was really great at negotiating with unions, bidding on multimillion-dollar contracts and winning them for ATSI. It was so exciting to watch her in action. She was a trailblazer and changed the financial outlook for the good of Ahtna during hard times,” said Goldie. “I would like to thank her for being such a strong role model in my life. I have so much admiration for her and her family.”

Carol’s contributions influenced other subsidiaries to go after government contracts which has helped Ahtna to grow into an extremely competitive corporation. From all of us at Ahtna, thank you Carol for establishing Ahtna as a premier government contracting company and inspiring so many with your determination, work ethic and passion for Ahtna and its people!

Carol lives with her husband John Craig in Copperville. They have two children, Ve’dra Bechtol and John Mahler. Carol has opened her home and love for cooking to staff at Ahtna by hosting a pre-Annual Meeting barbeque in recent years. “She’s a phenomenal wife, mother, grandmother, auntie, cook and hostess and makes everyone feel welcome and loved. I could go on and on about Carol’s wonderful attributes because I’m one of her biggest admirers personally and professionally,” shared Ahtna, Inc. President Michelle Anderson.