Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission Members

The AWCAC enabling legislation establishes a five-member commission, including the chair. The non-chair members are volunteer representatives of employees and employers who must have served for at least 18 months as a member of the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board. The chair must be an attorney admitted to practice in Alaska for at least 5 years with experience in workers’ compensation law. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Legislature. The regular commission term is five years; however, staggered terms are provided for the appointees. All terms expire on March 1st of the last year of appointment.

If you have an appeal before the commission, you have the right to object to a commission member hearing your case for grounds set out in AS 23.30.007(l). You must file your objection in writing with the commission office no later than 10 days after receiving a notice of the assignment of the commissioners. 8 AAC 57.080. You may send a fax or an e-mail to make your objection. The grounds for objection include

  • a party is an employee or was, in the past seven years, an employee of the commission member or of a business that employs the commission member; this paragraph does not apply to the chair of the commission when the State of Alaska is or was the employer of a party;
  • a party is a member or was, in the past seven years, a member of the same union or employee association as the commission member;
  • a party has a contractual relationship with the commission member, a business that employs the commission member, or a union or employee association of which the commission member is a member;
  • the commission member is unable to be fair, impartial, and unbiased toward the appeal participants; or
  • the commission member’s participation in the appeal is a violation of AS 39.52.

The current appeals commission members are:

  • Appeals Commission Chair

Deirdre D. Ford, Chair, of Anchorage, was appointed Chair by Governor Bill Walker and took office on October 31, 2016. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Ford was retired from the practice of law. From March 2009 to July 2012, Ms. Ford was a Hearing Officer with the Board in Anchorage. From June 1985 through February 2009, Ms. Ford practiced law with Delisio Moran Geraghty & Zobel, with an emphasis in Workers’ Compensation law, primarily representing employers. She received her J.D. cum laude from the University of San Francisco, School of Law in 1984, her M.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois Chicago in 1973, her M.L.S. in Library Science from the University of California Berkeley, and her B.A. in Political Science from Whittier College in 1963. Her term expires on March 1, 2020.

  • Appeals Commissioners

Philip E. Ulmer, an employer representative, of Eagle River, is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional currently employed as Director of Safety and Risk Management for GCI. He is a previous national president of the American Society of Safety Engineers and of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics, and a 1994 Engineer of the Year finalist with the Alaska Society of Professional Engineers. He served as a member for industry on the Board. He was appointed by Governor Frank Murkowski to a four-year term as Commissioner in November 2005, reappointed by Governor Sarah Palin to a five-year term in March 2009, and reappointed by Governor Sean Parnell to a five-year term in March 2014. His term expires on March 1, 2019.

James N. Rhodes, an employee representative, of Ketchikan, is a 23-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 1547. He served as a member for labor on the Board from August 2001 until March 2005. He was appointed by Governor Sean Parnell to a four-year term as Commissioner in February 2012, and was reappointed to a 5-year term by Governor Bill Walker in January 2016. His term expires on March 1, 2021.

S. T. Hagedorn, an employer representative, of Anchorage, retired from the Alaska Railroad Corporation in June 2009 after a 34-year career, with the last 24 years as Corporate Risk Manager. He was appointed as a member for industry to the Board in 1991 by Governor Walter Hickel, reappointed twice by Governor Tony Knowles, and reappointed in 2006 by Governor Frank Murkowski (15 years of Board service). He has a B.A. in history from the University of Northern Iowa. He was appointed by Governor Sarah Palin to a five-year term as Commissioner in March 2007, reappointed by Governor Sean Parnell to another five-year term in February 2012; and reappointed by Governor Bill Walker to an additional five-year term in February 2017. His term expires on March 1, 2022.

Michael J. Notar, an employee representative, of Juneau, was appointed as Commissioner in September 2015 by Governor Bill Walker, and reappointed by Governor Bill Walker to a five-year term on January 4, 2018. After graduating high school in 1970 and a brief stint in college, he started his working career as a Surveyor with the State of Alaska in 1971. He also worked as a Teamster Surveyor before joining the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1547 in 1977, where he worked as an Apprentice Electrician and Communications Technician. He was appointed in 1995 to the IBEW Local 1547 Assistant Business Manager position in Juneau, where he served for 15 years. He returned to State of Alaska service in 2010 at the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and served as a Wage and Hour Investigator, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, and Southeast Wage & Hour Supervising Investigator. He retired from active employment in 2013 and is a lifelong Alaskan. His term expires on March 1, 2023.