Richard Beneville was all smiles at his official swearing in on Friday. Sporting a crew-neck sweatshirt that read “Nome, Alaska” across the front, Beneville held his right hand up in the air and swore to support the constitution of the United States, the laws of the state of Alaska, and the ordinances of the city of Nome.
When asked about his priorities for Nome, Beneville mentioned the port first and foremost, saying that he supports the plans for expansion. But he was also realistic about the need to diversify the city’s economy.
“With Shell pulling out and some other things happening, we all have to drop back a little bit and take another look,” Beneville suggested, adding, “it’s a lot of money, but I think it’s money that we can ultimately find.”
The direction Beneville thinks the city should go in is towards more tourism, and not just because of his role in the industry over the years. While Beneville was born in New Jersey, has lived abroad, and spent a large part of his career in New York City, there’s never any question of where he calls home and just how proud he is to do so.
“You know, we’re a wonderful town with a phenomenal history,” Beneville said, adding that, along with having great name recognition in Alaska, Nome is known around the world for its beauty and culture.
It’s that phenomenal history that Beneville thinks Nome should focus on in its attempt to diversify the economy. He suggests one of the first steps would be to host the Alaska Travel Industry Association, which brings together businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the state at its annual convention.
Beneville says that if Nome could host the ATIA convention, “they’d go crazy,” adding that, “they all have been wanting to come for fifteen to twenty years.”
This year, the ATIA met in Juneau over four days, and next year’s convention is being held in Anchorage.
In the meantime, Beneville says that much of the city’s history, from serving as the finish line for the Last Great Race to its role in the first successful transit of the Northwest Passage by a Norwegian explorer, are on display on Front Street.
“Right outside this window is the Iditarod arch, right outside this window is Roald Amundsen. There’s a tremendous amount here on Front Street.”
Beneville will attend his first City Council meeting, a platform for proposing new directions for the city, in less than two weeks, on Monday, October 26.