Inauguration fever: Alaska Airlines added an additional flight just to get folks to Juneau. Some of the out-of-town faces spotted included former Gov. Bill Sheffield; AFN’s Julie Kitka; Honorary Consulate of Canada Karen Mathias; Malcom and Cindy Roberts, UAF’s Brian Rogers, Vicki Otte; Chugach Corp’s CEO Cheri Buretta; Janet Weiss and Phil Cochrane from BP; former state senator and labor leader Joe Thomas; former DOL commissioner and Fairbanks mayor Jim Sampson; one of the Valley’s three amigos Roger Purcell; AOGA’s Kara Moriarty; Stephen and Dana McAlpine, Paul Brown; former Juneau legislator and Obama administration employee Beth Kerttula, and Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan to name a few.
Only two members of legislative leadership attended the inauguration—House Majority Leader Charisse Millett and Majority Leader John Coghill. The other House members attending the event: Reps. Sam Kito III, Bob Herron, Benny Nageak, Lora Rinebold, Harriet Drummond, Scott Kawasaki, Rep.-elect Jim Colver, Rep.-elect Liz Vazquez. Senators: Click Bishop, Lyman Hoffman, Bert Steadman, Gary Stevens, and Dennis Egan.
Some of the food served at the VIP party of about 300 at the governor’s mansion after the swearing-in: Smoked salmon, scallops with béarnaise sauce, prosciutto and lots of Christmas cookies. The “little squid” were much discussed, as was the foie gras, which freshman Rep.-elect Jim Colver—a salmon and moose burger kind of guy– gave wide berth to. Colver did want to make the point that he’s not a culinary rube. His wife is Dutch and he’s spent time in Europe. And “I do like a good pinot noir,” he said. Alas, only punch at the mansion.
Where in the world has Hollis French been?
Gov. Bill Walker is headed to D.C. Wednesday to meet with President Obama and his cabinet as part of a meeting Obama has requested with all new governors.
Many news agencies on Monday were touting Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott as the first statewide elected official with Native ancestry. Wrong. Former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman wasted no time setting the record straight. This is from his Facebook page:
Byron Mallott is now the second person of Alaska Native ancestry elected to statewide office in Alaska. I was the first. Several media reporters today didn’t do their homework very well and misreported this fact, forgetting my Alutiiq and mixed stock heritage from Afognak, Kodiak and Ninilchik.
Special section: Transition buzz
Sources say that DOT and DEC commissioners Pat Kemp and Larry Hartig have been asked to stay. Word is that Kemp completed retirement paperwork and submitted it on Monday, but I guess he’ll have to try to build a few more roads and bridges before heading back to fishing and wintering in the desert.
Emily Ricci, one of the bright lights of Parnell’s third floor operation, has been hired by DHSS Commissioner Val Davidson to be part of her senior management team. Her title is unknown.
They shouldn’t have left this one off the hook: DOR deputy commissioner Mike “Fish” Pawlowski—a man with a unique talent at explaining complicated oil and gas issues to barely-awake legislators–left DOR at noontime on Monday. It’ll soon be announced that he’ll be joining Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s US Senate Energy Committee staff.
This one will grab the attention of the oil industry: Democratic leg staffer and often times industry critic, Ken Alper will be named as director of DOR’s Tax Division.
He’s back: Jerry Burnett, previously retired from DOR, is back as a deputy commissioner.
I previously reported that Marcia Davis, former deputy commissioner at DOR, will be the new deputy chief of staff. As far as I know that’s still true. However, she’ll be acting DOR commissioner until the new commish, Randall Hoffbeck, starts in January.
This seems unlikely to me, but the rumor persists: Former DHSS commissioner Bill Streur is going to work in the legislature for Sen. Pete Kelly.
Bloodbath at Department of Administration: So far, and as far as I know, DOA has seen the worst, or the best of it, depending on your point of view. The commissioner and both deputy commissioners at the DOA are now out. This department has 1,000 employees and a $350 million budget. Among other things, it oversees state employee payroll, employee and retirees’ benefits including $600 million worth of health care benefits, technology for the state, DMV, the public defender’s office, and houses the budges of APOC and the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
One of those deputies who was fired was Mike Barnhill, who had been with the state for 14 years—10 years at the Department of Law and the last four at DOA. He had survived many administrations, mostly because he’s smart, capable and non-partisan. However, DOA is the department that negotiates with the State Employees Association, and word is that Jim Duncan, who heads the union, had it out for all of them over there. Barnhill was a particular target, people say, because Barnhill contradicted Duncan’s flimsy attack on GOP Senate-elect Dan Sullivan, who Duncan claimed took a lousy settlement deal while he was AG that Duncan said negatively impacted the state’s retirement account. Barnhill, who worked at law at the time and was the one who negotiated the settlement, talked to the media, including to me, to try and set the record straight. If it’s that’s why he was let go, let’s hope that this isn’t a pattern. (Let me be clear: I haven’t spoken to Barnhill about any of this.)
Anyway, the new acting commissioner of DOA, Amy Erickson, was the director of DMV, who is said to be very smart. However, there were a few big fires in the pan at DOA that anybody new to the game might find challenging. One, there’s a few union contracts still to be negotiated. Secondly, on June 1, a new $80 million software system for the state is supposed to be up and running. But most importantly, the department was in the final stages of drawn-out negotiations with Aetna, who got the contract last year to administer health care for all the state’s 14,000 employees and 60,000 retirees and their families. Barnhill was heading up the negotiations. Now he’s unemployed.
The pinot-appreciating Rep.-elect Jim Colver has hired Dave Scott, who was Sen. Donny Olson’s staffer, and Angie Stephl, a Valley paralegal who helped in his campaign.
End transition buzz
Alaska factoid brought to my attention by former Ketchikan Rep. Kyle Johansen: Ranch dressing was invented right here in Alaska by Steve Henson who, while working as a plumber somewhere in Rural Alaska in the 1950s, dreamed up the dressing. When he amscrayed, he and his wife opened Hidden Valley Ranch in California, which was bought by Clorox for $8 million in 1972. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
Save the date:
I guess the closer you get to North Pole the greater the holiday spirit. It might be the candy-cane shaped street lights, and all the Santa look-alikes, some intentional, some not. In any case, the North Pole holiday spirit has caught the Fairbanks legislative delegation. This Friday, December 5th from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. they will be hosting a holiday open house at the Fairbanks Legislative Information office, located in the Alaska USA Financial Center, 1292 Sadler Way. They promise cookies. Hey, Anchorage legislators, get in the spirit…. Wait! The Anchorage LIO is still under construction! Otherwise, we’d show Fairbanks up by toasting the holidays riding up and down in the new glass elevators. sipping on Dom Pérignon and munching on Russian caviar.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org