Board of Directors

Sandi Pahlke, President

Sandi has been an educator in the Juneau School District for 23 years. She is also the mother of two. She writes, "I have learned that mental illness affects everyone's lives whether it is a friend, a family member, or oneself. As a society, we need to become better educated, offer better health care, and help one another. My hope is that through my work with NAMI I can help make someone's life a bit better." Sandi has served on the board since 2013 in various capacities and helped establish and is a state trainer for NAMI's parent education program, NAMI Basics.

Bonnie Chaney, Treasurer

Bonnie recently retired from over 25 years working with the City and Borough of Juneau and is now looking forward to being a more active member of the NAMI Juneau community. Primarily she wishes to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness issues and help family members learn about the resources available to them. We all know individuals and/or their family members dealing with mental health challenges and she feels that by working together, we can change people's lives. Bonnie is the Finance Chair, helped establish and is a state trainer for NAMI's parent education program, and serves on the fundraising committee.

Debbie Fagnant

Debbie came to Alaska in 1973 to begin her elementary teaching career in St. Mary's, an Eskimo community off the Yukon. She has three wonderful children with husband Dick Fagnant and delightful grandchildren. Debbie retired from the Juneau School District in 2011 and now has more time for ceramics, hiking with friends, visiting family, and reading good books. Debbie wears many hats for NAMI Juneau and is committed to supporting others through NAMI's various family education and support programs.

Susan Finkelstein

Susan previously worked on staff at REACH, Inc. with the organization’s Care Coordination program and later served as Director of Quality Assurance.  Prior to that, she had two careers – one in High School Special Education, working with students struggling with Emotional Disabilities, and the other as a Business Operations Manager at Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin.  Susan has a BA degree in Psychology and an MS degree in Special Education. Now that she has retired, Susan desires to serve at NAMI to support and help the Juneau community. Specifically, she hopes to contribute to both educational and business activities of NAMI, having been previously involved in curriculum development, suicide awareness/prevention, individual and family issues related to mental illness, as well as government contracts, proposals, and grant activities. She is excited to serve at NAMI.

Jem Gaceta  

Jem was raised in the Philippines and migrated to the US in 2009. Since then, Jem has called Juneau home and is raising her family here. Working as an educator in both the US and in the Philippines, Jem has seen mental health challenges affect the lives of people from all walks and backgrounds. She knows that taking an active role as a board member of NAMI, Jem will become more educated and able to empower others in our community. As a school counselor, a parent, and a community member, it is Jem's mission to be a voice and an advocate for families who are needing guidance in the mental health area.  

Crystal Jackson

Crystal is part Inupiaq and grew up as the oldest of four children in an Air Force family, relocating to exotic places like Panama, Germany, and Nebraska. She graduated from the University of Alaska in Anchorage with a BA in Marketing and minor in Psychology. Crystal is familiar with mental health issues that face many Alaskans and Alaska Natives alike. She considers herself an advocate for squashing stigmas around mental health issues, and she has a passion for relationship-building and empathy-skill training. She has had personal experiences with managing depression, sleep disorders, panic attacks, and antidepressant medications.

Walter Majoros

Walter and his wife Lori have lived in Juneau for 42 years. They are retired now and have two adult children. Walter worked in mental health for almost his whole career, in both non-profits and state government. He has done mainly administrative and advocacy work with various populations including children, adults, seniors, and people in prison. Walter has been with the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition (JSPC) since its inception and was on the work group to help integrate the JSPC into NAMI-Juneau. Walter has a passion for both mental health and suicide prevention and is honored to serve on the NAMI-Juneau board of directors. 

Sara Raster

Knowing loved ones and friends who live with mental illness, Sara feels a strong commitment to do what she can to help erase the stigma associated with mental health issues. Sara is pleased to be able to work with NAMI Juneau in their efforts to improve the quality of life for all those in our community. She and her family have lived in Juneau for 22 years. She has spent time as a volunteer, an advocate for public education, and has served on the boards of AEYC-SEA, Perseverance Theatre, and Juneau’s Year of Kindness. Sara is also a co-founder of The Hasty Half fun run and enjoys running, CrossFit, reading and cooking in her spare time.

Cyndy Rutto

Cindy became a PMHNP in 2005 and had a private practice for 15 years in Portland, OR. Her background includes kids, adolescents, and adults, as well as First Responders. Her areas of interest were primarily anxiety, suicide prevention and education, and trauma, thus she became trained in trauma therapy (EMDR, and Internal Family Systems).  Cyndy also worked with individuals who were diagnosed with mood disorders. Her dog, Bijou, was also a part of her private practice.

In 2019 Cyndy closed her practice to do locums work, which brought her to Juneau. Her initial contract was for 6 months, however, her job at Bartlett has been more than she had dreamed, so she signed on as an employee for at least 3 years.  Cyndy is looking forward to  becoming a more active member of the Juneau community.


Rob Steedle

Rob is honored to join the NAMI Juneau board membership. He is deeply committed to the NAMI mission of education and advocacy to positively influence mental health public policy and is delighted that his recent retirement from the City & Borough of Juneau affords him time for this important work. Rob has benefited directly from NAMI Juneau’s presence in coming to terms with the challenges of family members who are living with mental illness, and he looks forward to deepening his understanding while helping others along this road.  



Aaron Surma,

Executive Director

Aaron has received mental health services for over twenty years.  During this time, he has experienced first-hand the power of peer support.  In particular, the role of peer support in helping people find their voice as it relates to their own recovery.  His goal is for people in Juneau to feel the confidence to make decisions about their mental health care while making sure the proper resources are available to them. Before joining NAMI Juneau in 2020, Aaron worked for the Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition and a variety of community mental health providers.  He also has a degree in social work.

Megan Gunkel,

Outreach Coordinator

Megan is passionate about supporting those with mental illness, raising awareness about mental health, and learning about all things mental-health and behavioral-health related. She is currently earning a Master's of Art Therapy with hopes to pour what she learns back into the community of Southeast Alaska and help others on their path to wellness through art.

Karlene Kuhn,

Program Coordinator

Karlene graduated from Michigan State University with her Bachelors in Human Development and Family Studies. Since graduating, she has worked in the non-profit sector including two terms with AmeriCorps and a term with the Peace Corps. Karlene is passionate about mental health advocacy and is committed to strengthening community partnerships, increasing community education, and providing support to those impacted by mental illness.