Getting to know the new executive director of Iron Dog
Name: Susan Duck
What has been your path to arrive as the new Executive Director of Iron Dog?
My background is in VIP Services, Incentive Travel and Event Planning. When I came to Alaska, I worked at the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, eventually becoming Executive Director. Next, I joined Mayor Sullivan’s executive team, responsible for the Anchorage Centennial, Winter Olympics Exploratory Committee and other events as directed. I was doing consulting work when approached by Iron Dog.
Based on your past work history, what has prepared you for this post?
I am very familiar with executing large events and managing all of the moving pieces that it entails. I understand working with a small staff and a large group of volunteers to make an event of this magnitude happen. I really like creating solutions and partnerships and to see an organization be successful. I am also good at dealing with high levels of stress.
What was your involvement with Iron Dog prior to becoming ED?
I have been a fan of Iron Dog for years and enjoyed seeing the race grow under Kevin Kastner’s leadership. I was Kevin’s contact at the MOA and facilitated the first meetings to discuss the possibility of an Anchorage start.
How is life as the new ED?
Great! It is a steep learning curve and I am fortunate to have a great team to educate me. The Iron Dog community has been very welcoming; I have met some great folks and look forward to meeting more.
How long have you been with Iron Dog?
I began Aug. 15, 2017.
What is the most striking/interesting thing you have learned as ED?
I’ve learned so much! I have a new appreciation for how tough the racers are and the investment of time and money they (and their families) make in preparing for and running the Iron Dog. I am also very impressed with the number of volunteers from communities throughout Alaska and the work they do to make Iron Dog happen. The number of people involved in the race is just staggering. Everyone from sponsors, racers, volunteers and entire communities generously offer their support; their passion for Iron Dog is what makes it happen.
What are some of your goals for this year’s race?
The primary goal this year is to have a successful and safe race. Along the way, I’ll be working to raise funds to allow it to continue for another 35 years.
I am also spending time with sponsors and partners listening to ideas and getting input on how well things have or have not worked. For example, as a result of feedback I have been given to date, we have created the Past Champions Council. The Past Champions Council will provide a wealth of historical knowledge, expertise, and input from the racer’s perspective.
How can people help you reach these goals?
Volunteering, racing, sponsoring, buying merchandise and raffle tickets are all ways to support the race. Also, if you have ideas or input about how we can improve the race, please feel free to contact me.
What changes do you plan for the event this year?
We aren’t implementing any major changes this year, but we do have a few surprises in store. We will also be amping up our Fairbanks presence and Official Finish Line presence.
Biggest challenges at Iron Dog?
Securing income is a challenge for any nonprofit in Alaska in this economic climate, and Iron Dog is no different. Finding new partners, sponsors and revenue streams is challenging but with the excitement and statewide reach of the race, I am confident that potential sponsors will see the benefits of being a part of our team.
Biggest rewards at Iron Dog?
Creating fair, mutually beneficial partnerships, finding new efficiencies and securing the long-term future of Iron Dog will be the biggest reward. I also want to continue to leverage the race to impact youth through our various initiatives and grow those programs. We have a great platform to influence and educate our youth in Alaska and expanding our reach is critical; seeing positive results from those efforts will be gratifying.
How’s your riding skills/what do you ride and where?
I have zero skills! I have literally ridden two times but not from lack of interest. I am originally from the South — no snow. I moved here 15 years ago and as a single, working mother of three children, the time hasn’t been there for anything else. Since my kids are almost grown, I expect this to change and look forward to joining the snowmachine community.
What do you want folks to know about Iron Dog?
Iron Dog gives back to the community. We have a very successful student exchange program and our raffle proceeds are shared with another nonprofit: this year it is USO Alaska. Finally, our door is open, whether you are a snowmachiner or not, there is room for your involvement.
What do you want folks to know about you?
When I commit to a job or project, I am all in. I will do everything I can to improve and grow Iron Dog, in a way that honors the intent and purpose of the race, as well as the Iron Dog community.