- Associated Press - Sunday, June 15, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - John Devens, who served as mayor of Valdez at the time of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, then the nation’s largest, has died. He was 74.

Devens died Friday at his home in the Copper Center area, and a cause of death is unknown, his son, John Devens, told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The elder Devens was the mayor of Valdez, president of the local community college and running a small audiology practice when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in March 1989 and spilled nearly 11 million gallons of crude oil into the water, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday (https://is.gd/FEea5S ).

In the wake of the disaster, Devens organized the mayors of affected coastal communities to ensure they had a say in the response and to demand accountability.

“His biggest pride and accomplishment was his family,” his son said. “He was a good politician. He did a lot for the state of Alaska. He did a hell of a lot for the city of Valdez.”

In 1984, Devens was first elected mayor of Valdez, a small city located in south-central Alaska on the northeast tip of Prince William Sound.

After the oil spill, he also made two unsuccessful bids for a seat in the U.S. House.

In 1998, he became executive director of the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council, a watchdog group formed to provide citizen oversight over the oil industry. The organization pushed for tougher environmental regulations, such as pressing Exxon to replace its single-hulled vessels with double-hulled oil tankers, the Daily News reported.

Devens was an instigating force behind that council and the founding president of the Prince William Sound Community College, his son said.

Devens had moved to Valdez in 1977 to direct a new branch of the University of Alaska. He is credited with turning a program with a budget of about $54,000 into an accredited one, Prince William Sound Community College, with a $2.5 million operating budget.

His son said Devens also had a love of horses, and showed them at competitions across the U.S. He often won those competitions, his son said.

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, https://www.adn.com

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