The heart of any ombudsman's office is the staff that takes complaints, investigates them, and provides the services necessary to allow that to happen. Here's a brief introduction to Alaska's O Team:
Gwen Byington is an assistant ombudsman in Juneau. A lifelong Alaskan, she was born and raised in Juneau, but has lived and worked also in the Fairbanks and Anchorage communities. Gwen has a Bachelor of Science degree in social work. She has over 17 years work experience with the State of Alaska. This is not Gwen’s first time working for the Office of the Ombudsman. She worked as an assistant ombudsman for two years in the Fairbanks office and five years in the Anchorage office. She enjoys reading, hiking, fishing, and spending time with family and friends.
Jennifer Christensen is an assistant ombudsman in Juneau. Before joining the Ombudsman's office in 2008, Jennifer was self-employed as a contract attorney from 2004-2008, and also spent several years in private practice. She received her law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law and is currently licensed to practice law in Alaska. She enjoys reading, gardening, and spending time with her family and friends.
Denise Duff is an assistant ombudsman in Anchorage. She has lived in Alaska for 38 years and worked in state government for 15 years. Denise loves the outdoors. She and her family spend almost every weekend in the summer camping, and she serves as assistant coach in her local Little League. She spends winters ice fishing, being a hockey mom, and enjoying other outdoor activities.
Megan Gosda is the Intake Secretary in Anchorage. She grew up in Oregon. The moment she turned 18, she moved to Fairbanks. After completing college, she and her husband moved to Unalaska, where she worked as a 911 dispatcher for six years and assisted with writing the police blotter. Megan is your quintessential cat lady, complete with fur covered sweaters and a book always at hand. In her spare time, she plays hermit in random places around the world and is pursuing her Master’s degree in Administration of Justice.
Kate Higgins is an assistant ombudsman in Juneau. Although born and raised in Alaska, she left in 1996 to attend college and law school. She received her law degree in 2007 from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland OR and is currently licensed to practice law in Alaska. She enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and various pets, baking, reading, and listening to music.
Charlsie Huhndorf-Arend is an assistant ombudsman in Anchorage. A lifelong Alaskan, she has worked in state government for 10 years and has been with the Office of the Ombudsman since 2000. She enjoys gardening, camping, fishing, and spending time with her family.
Mark Kissel is an assistant ombudsman in Juneau and the office webmaster. He received a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin Madison and worked on newspapers and magazines for several years. He has lived in Alaska since 1977 and worked for state government most of that time. He has been with the Office of the Ombudsman since 1996. His hobbies include dogs, tai chi chuan, and playing the guitar and bagpipes.
Beth Leibowitz is an assistant ombudsman in Juneau and is also the office legal specialist. She has been admitted to practice law in Alaska since 1997. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
Linda Lord-Jenkins was appointed ombudsman in June 2002 and reappointed to a second term in 2007 and a third term in 2012. She had worked as an assistant ombudsman in Anchorage since 1989. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, she worked for 20 years as a journalist in Florida and Alaska before joining the Ombudsman's Office. Ms. Lord-Jenkins was editor of the Tundra Times newspaper in the 1980s and worked as the USA Today Alaska correspondent. She is married to Paul Jenkins and has three sons and two granddaughters. She enjoys working in the fiber arts and walking her dogs. She is a member and past President of the United States Ombudsman Association, the professional association for public sector ombudsmen.
Linda Ritchey is the ombudsman intake officer in Anchorage. Originally from Wisconsin, she moved to Alaska in 1980 as a new bride. She loves everything about Alaska: fishing, camping, hunting, skiing, camping, and even the extreme weather! One of her favorite things is dipnetting red salmon on the Kenai. She and her husband raised two boys—both Eagle Scouts—who have also made Alaska their home. Before working for the ombudsman, she was employed in the insurance industry.
Tom Webster joined the office as assistant ombudsman in 1984. He left Alaska in 1989 to attend graduate school and returned to the office in 1993. From 1999 through 2000 he was associate ombudsman at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He returned to our Juneau office in December 2000 and has worked in Fairbanks since July 2002. Tom enjoys music, reading, hiking, and camping.
Melissa Wilson is the intake secretary for the Ombudsman in Anchorage. She was born in Florida but has made Alaska her home for more than 20 years. Melissa has a Bachelor of Human Services degree and is currently completing her Master’s of Public Health degree through the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She has worked in social services for both the state and municipality of Anchorage. She, her husband, and their two children love the outdoors, especially weekends on their boat in Seward and snow machining up north. She loves a good book, spending time with family, and taking part in philanthropic activities in her community.