AEDC staff is small but accomplishes much. Although each position is structured to provide a specialized function, the staff interacts closely on projects, combining their expertise to see a project to fruition. Listed below is a brief description of each person’s background and the major focus of his or her position.
President & CEO
Bill Popp has spent 46 years in both the Alaska private and public sectors. As President & CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation since 2007, he sets the strategic direction in marketing Anchorage and Alaska to companies and global industries considering Anchorage as a place in which to do business and assists local businesses looking to expand both within Anchorage and Alaska as well as Lower 48 and international markets.
Prior to joining AEDC, Popp was a special assistant in the Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor’s office from 2002 to 2007 focused on oil and gas and mining policy. Popp was also an elected municipal government official for the Kenai Peninsula Borough (KPB) from 1996 to 2002 and presided over the KPB Assembly as president in 2000. Popp has over 25 years of private industry experience working for large national and regional businesses and as a small business owner. His also served as project coordinator of the Challenger Learning Center for Alaska from 1996 to 2000.
Popp is currently co-chair of the 49th State Angel Fund Business Advisory Committee, He is a board member of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Visit Anchorage, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Alaska Public Media, and the Anchorage Concert Association. Popp also serves as a member of the UAA College of Business and Public Policy Business Advisory Board, the Alaskan Command Civilian Advisory Board, the JBER Community Partnership Leadership team, is co-chair of the Governor’s Alaska Civilian Armed Services Team (ACAST) and is a member of the Municipality of Anchorage 2020 Census Complete Count Commission, the Municipality of Anchorage Senator Bettye Davis Public Facility Naming Panel.
Popp has previously served as chair of Mayor Berkowitz JBER Base Economic Analysis Research (BEAR) Working Group and co-chair of the initial efforts to oppose the force reduction of the 4-25 Army Brigade at JBER. Popp was also a member of Governor Bill Walker’s Transition Committee, member of Mayor-Elect Ethan Berkowitz’s Transition Committee, and member of Mayor-Elect Dan Sullivan’s Transition Committee. He has also served as chair of the Governor’s Broadband Task Force, and Municipality of Anchorage Energy Policy Task Force.
Other past service includes serving on the Legislative Energy Policy Stakeholders Group; chairman of the KPB Economic Development Criteria Task Force; chair of the Economic Development Committee for the Municipality of Anchorage; vice chairman of the Alaska Stranded Gas Act Municipal Advisory Group; co-chair of Governor Murkowski’s Agrium Task Force; chair of the Kenai Peninsula Development Coalition; consultant for the British Columbia Provincial Government’s Offshore Oil and Gas Team; member of the Tri-borough Commission Energy Task Force; Board member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District; Fundraising Chair of the 2006 Arctic Winter Games; Fundraising Chair for the USS Anchorage Commissioning Ceremony; and a member of the Cook Inlet Natural Gas Pipeline Terminus Group.
Popp first moved to Anchorage in 1968 as a military dependent at Elmendorf Air Force Base. A graduate of East Anchorage High School in 1977, Popp and his wife Nicole married in 1979. Work took Popp to the Kenai Peninsula in 1983 where he and Nicole raised their daughter and son over the 25 years they lived in Kenai. They have two grandchildren who live in Anchorage and happen to be military dependents too.
Emma Irish - Director of Strategic Initiatives
As Director of Strategic Initiatives, Emma is responsible for creating and executing strategies to help grow and diversify Anchorage’s economy. These strategies include the design and execution of AEDC’s Business Retention & Expansion program, attracting new businesses and industries to Anchorage, and executing AEDC’s Live.Work.Play. efforts moving forward.
Emma spent her early years in Southeast Alaska but grew up in Anchorage. She graduated with a political science degree from Gonzaga University and moved back to Anchorage soon after. Prior to joining the team at AEDC, Emma worked in marketing and public involvement in the private sector.
Emma loves to spend her time gardening, cooking, DIY-ing projects at home, and hiking with her dogs June and Bean.
Darleen Fernandez - AEDC Operations Manager
Following more than 20 years of fundraising, including several as Development Director at AEDC, Darleen’s career has come full circle in her return to office administration as AEDC Operations Manager.
Darleen executes day-to-day operations including managing human resources, accounting and IT. She also provides support to department directors in driving AEDC’s key strategic initiatives. Darleen holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Public Communications from UAA.
Before joining AEDC Darleen worked at Girl Scouts of Alaska and as an administrator with local arts organizations including Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and Sitka Summer Music Festival. Prior to arts administration, she worked for area credit unions where the course of positions held progressed from teller to controller.
Outside of work Darleen is often found in the company of her eight grandchildren and amazing friends she’s had the good fortune to make since her family moved to Anchorage from San Francisco in the mid ’70s. Darleen is a known foodie, works hard to hit the Coastal Trail for walks with her dog and compulsively checks Alaska Airlines’ website for Club 49 warm weather travel opportunities!
Katie Dougherty - Communications Director
As Communications Director, Katie oversees the development of AEDC’s strategic marketing and communications plan and ensures its alignment with organizational and department goals. She manages all media coverage; writes, designs, and edits AEDC research and reports; and communicates with AEDC investors, economic developers, and the public through a variety of platforms, including social media, the website and regular electronic newsletters.
Katie was born and raised in Anchorage. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Colorado College, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Alaska Common Ground. Before joining AEDC, Katie worked for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, first as a Project Manager in the Office of Economic and Community Development (OECD) before transitioning to oversee the Mayor’s digital media. She believes in the power of information to unlock community engagement and conversation – the path to great policymaking.
Katie unwinds in the gym, cooking a beautiful meal, or laughing.
Tara Nokelby - Development Director
As Development Director, Tara is responsible for AEDC investor relations and events. In addition to working to attract new companies to join AEDC, she also ensures current Investors fully leverage membership benefits and opportunities.
Tara was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She has her bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from Suffolk University in Boston, MA. Before joining AEDC, Tara was a Project Specialist at Jacobs Engineering after working as a Project Manager at Teya Services, LLC (Teya). At Teya she managed a technical assistance and event planning government contract through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and was the Senior Event Manager for a contract through the National 8(a) Association, a nonprofit organization that provides resources to small businesses.
In her free time, Tara enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, friends, fiancé, and puppy.
Sarah McBryde - Executive Assistant and Events Coordinator
As Executive Assistant and Events Coordinator, Sarah is responsible for multiple day-to-day operations of AEDC, as well as the planning and execution of AEDC’s events throughout the year.
Sarah was born in Michigan and moved to Anchorage in 2016 for two years of AmeriCorps VISTA service with the Anchorage Public Library. The goal of the VISTA project was to expand access to employment services for library patrons. She pursued her education in Michigan and has a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Central Michigan University. She is currently a member of the Friends of the Library board for the Anchorage Public Library. Before joining AEDC, Sarah worked for Nine Star Education and Employment Services as well as the Alyse Galvin for U.S. Congress campaign since the completion of her AmeriCorps VISTA service.
Sarah lives in Anchorage with her two cats and enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and indulging in her artistic talents. She is often reading or making art in her spare time when she is not out on a hike.