Staff Members

Brian Holst, Executive Director - (907) 523-2333

Since 2008, Brian Holst serves as the Executive Director of the Juneau Economic Development Council. Before joining JEDC, Brian worked in community and economic development internationally for twenty years. His previous experience includes working with local and national stakeholders in challenging economic and political circumstances in the developing world, with extensive experience leading countrywide programs in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Brian has directly managed implementation of programs in micro-finance, home improvement lending, environmental planning, disaster mitigation and response, business support services and various construction efforts ranging from energy to schools to roads.

Brian is a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School and the University of Notre Dame. He served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in small business development and has also worked as an international consultant and small business owner.

Brian is committed to the prosperity of Juneau and the wellbeing of Alaskans. Brian serves Juneau and Alaska in numerous capacities, including serving on the Alaska State Committee on Research, UAF Alaska Center for Energy and Power, UAS Campus Advisory Council, the Alaska Committee as well as being active in service groups. He is a staunch advocate for developing talent early and serves on the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council and is a member of the Juneau Board of Education. His family in Juneau includes his wife Estela, four children, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews.

Angela Murphy, Business Manager - (907) 523-2322

Angela is new to Juneau, but not new to Alaska.  She has lived in many states, including Colorado, Texas, California, Kansas, and Nevada, but she calls Alaska home.  She earned her business/accounting degree from the University of Alaska - Fairbanks and has worked in the mining and brewing industries, as well as in public accounting. Angela came to JEDC out of a desire to work for an organization where she could make a positive difference in the people and community around her. 

Outside of JEDC, Angela enjoys walking/hiking/running with her dog, Bella. She spends time with her husband on home-improvement projects and relaxing in their hot tub. They love to travel and most trips outside the state are to visit their kids and grandbabies in Colorado.  Angela says Juneau is the most beautiful places she has ever lived - but she could use a little more sunshine.  

Robyn Mesdag, CFA, Researcher

Prior to working at JEDC, Robyn worked in finance, first with the State of Alaska as an Investment Officer, then for a Portland, Oregon investment consulting firm as an Associate Consultant. During her time in finance, Robyn created, reviewed and presented performance reports to clients to ensure clients’ investment goals were being met per their investment policy, managed and facilitated recommended transition plans, completed asset allocation studies and special projects, including a salary study for the State of Washington and public funds reporting. Robyn has earned the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.  

Robyn has a finance degree from Linfield College and is a graduate of Juneau – Douglas High School. Outside of JEDC Robyn spends time with her husband, two children and her (many) extended family members.

Caitlyn Ellis, Program Officer - (907) 523-2326

Before joining JEDC, Caitlyn spent five years at the Alaska State Legislature, mostly working for Juneau legislators and the Capitol City. Her work focused on major policy issues that affect Juneau, as well as helping Juneau businesses, organizations, and individuals find solutions to the problems they face. As Committee Aide for the House Labor and Commerce Committee, Caitlyn facilitated policy discussions with players from all of Alaska’s industries.

Like many, Caitlyn came to Juneau intending to stay for four months for a tourism job. Inspired by Juneau’s opportunities, views, and energy, she has now made Juneau her home. Caitlyn brings a deep connection and understanding of our visitor industry after seven summers guiding tours throughout Alaska and the Yukon.

Caitlyn graduated from Utah State University. She loves Juneau’s trails and community, and is devoted to helping Juneau be a place where everyone can prosper.

Allena Valentine, Executive Assistant - (907) 523-2343

Born and raised Juneauite, Allena is happy to be part of the JEDC team, creating positive change in the community. She started as a Program Analyst with the CBJ Business Sustainability Grant programs and then the Extreme Hardship Grant Program. Allena has transitioned into helping with JEDC projects and assisting the Executive Director.

When not at the office, Allena spends her time in the kitchen baking macarons, cakes, pies, sourdough, and so on. If it wasn’t for the pandemic that sent her home, she would be working on her Bachelors in Food Business Management with a focus in Advanced Baking and Pastry at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. To prevent her skills from getting rusty, Allena has picked up the reputation as snack provider with the various practice goodies that she brings in to share with the office.

Kristy Speciale, Communications and Development Officer - (907) 523-2324

Kristy brings a well-versed creative background to the JEDC team. She has honed her communication skills though various professional industries including; the NFL, the political sector and most recently through the commercial furniture industry. Her passion is rooted in seeing organizations thrive in the community and she helps make this possible by being aware of the fine details and helping people connect the dots while always seeing the big picture. It is her duty to help make Juneau a great capital city and she currently does this by coordinating special events, upholding community relationships in-person and online, and truly finding interest in what makes each organization thrive.

Robina Moyer, Program Officer

Robina comes to JEDC with a background in natural resource management and geographic information systems (GIS), working in recent years as an environmental consultant, an interpretive naturalist guide, and a field coordinator at a remote research camp. She graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Archaeology and in 2016 she earned a Master’s of Science in Environmental Studies and GIS from the University of Montana. Since joining JEDC in September 2020, Robina has found her diverse professional and academic experience translates well to her role assisting with the implementation of CARES-funded grant programs.

Robina first moved to Juneau in 2010 as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and has continued to make it her home base since then. In recent years she has spent time in Montana and interior Alaska, but keeps returning to Juneau for the community and environment. She is excited to join JEDC and be able to support efforts to keep Juneau the vibrant place she has come to love.

Alyson Cooper, STEM Education Coordinator - (907) 523-2343

Alyson comes to us as a long-time FIRST robotics volunteer, leaving her role on the Girl Scouts of Alaska staff to run the FIRST program in Alaska while continuing to volunteer for Girl Scouts and coach their two Juneau FIRST LEGO League teams. Alyson graduated from Chugiak High School and earned a BS in Geology and her Navy commission at The University of Texas at Austin, then served on ships in a wide variety of jobs including as Navigator of an ammunition ship during Operation Desert Storm. Eventually Commander Cooper ended up in Juneau doing logistics work and retired here, and after living in all four corners of the U.S., she has no intention of ever leaving Juneau.

Besides FIRST robotics and Girl Scouts which she has pulled her (also retired Navy) husband and two UAA-attending daughters fully into as well, Alyson and her husband run a small local business. Alyson plays percussion for the Juneau Symphony, Taku Winds, her church, and anyone nearby when she starts absent-mindedly drumming on available objects. And yes, the rumors are true, she does have a LEGO table suspended from her living room ceiling.


James Cheng, Researcher

Before coming to work with JEDC, James has worked as a tour boat captain in Tracy Arm and as a cello and chamber music instructor. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics from Pacific University and is a graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School. He was drawn back to Juneau because of its access to the outdoors and the active arts community.

James is very involved in the music community playing cello with groups such as the Juneau Symphony, Juneau Lyric Opera, and Orpheus Project and teaching with Juneau Alaska Music Matters.

When not working, James spends his time outside (hiking, fishing, skiing…) and playing music. He is looking forward to making Juneau and even better place to live.