Walker names two commissioners and legislative director  

Gov. Bill Walker filled three key positions in his administration on Friday. Heidi Drygas will be the new commissioner of the Department of Labor. Darwin Peterson will be Walker’s legislative director, and Larry Hartig will stay on as commissioner for the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Born and raised in Fairbanks, Drygas went to undergrad at UAF and received her law degree from Willamette University. For the last ten years, she has been a lawyer for the Alaska District Council of Laborers. She also has an awesome food blog and won the Alaska Democratic Party’s annual chili cook-off contest last year.

The new legislative director, Darwin Peterson, was most recently Sen. Bert Stedman’s chief of staff. He’s well liked in the Legislature, particularly among Republicans, which is important given that the make-up of the administration so far appears heavy on Democrats.

Finally, few will likely have a problem with Walker’s decision to keep Larry Hartig on. He’s been the commissioner of DEC since 2007, and by accounts, he’s done a good job.

Here’s the press release announcing the appointments:

Governor Walker is pleased to announce the appointment of Heidi Drygas as Department of Labor Commissioner, Darwin Peterson as Legislative Director and the retention of Larry Hartig as Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner.

“I am thrilled to welcome these talented individuals to my team,” said Governor Walker. “Each provides a unique skillset and perspective that will serve them well in their positions.”

Heidi Drygas, Governor Walker’s pick for Commissioner of Department of Labor, has a long history working on issues involving employment law and labor relations. Most recently, she spent nearly ten years as the General Counsel for the Alaska District Council of Laborers. Born and raised in Fairbanks, Drygas received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and her Juris Doctor from the Willamette University College of Law.

“Heidi has a great deal of experience in labor relations, and I am certain that she will be a great asset to our administration,” Governor Walker said. “With such high demand for good paying jobs across the state, it’s absolutely essential to have leaders like Heidi looking out for our workforce.”

Heidi is also an active member of Alaska’s food writers’ community, with a local blog, Chena Girl Cooks.

Darwin Peterson, Governor Walker’s newly appointed Legislative Director, has worked in the Alaska Legislature nearly 20 years, most recently as the Chief of Staff for State Senator Bert Stedman. Peterson spent most of his legislative career working in the Senate Finance Committee, and served as the Deputy Legislative Director for Governor Frank Murkowski.

“Darwin is well-respected throughout the Alaska Legislature, and brings with him a wealth of knowledge about our state government,” Governor Walker said. “I am pleased to welcome him as our new Legislative Director and look forward to working with him in the years to come.”

Governor Walker’s final announcement was the retention of the Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner, Larry Hartig. Hartig has served as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation since 2007, and has also served as a trustee on the board of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation since 2009. Prior to joining the State of Alaska, Mr. Hartig spent over 20 years as a private practice attorney, working primarily on environmental, natural resource, and commercial matters.

“I am pleased Larry will continue to serve the state as Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner,” said Governor Walker. “His commitment to public service, and longstanding knowledge of environmental and natural resource issues, make him a great asset to the people of Alaska.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


30 thoughts on “Walker names two commissioners and legislative director  

  1. Kate

    “The camera likes her quite well it appears.”

    “The camera likes her” is an antiquated phrase meaning a person is attractive or photogenic. G.F., try making that remark about a male appointee and see if you think it sounds appropriate, professional or relevant. A hallmark of sexism is judging a woman on her appearance, especially in a professional setting where it should bear no regard.

  2. Crude is Rude, Gas is Groovy

    I nominate Lynn as “Financial Comptroller”….
    yup, if I wuz Guv, I might still write the check,
    but I would also leave it up to Lynn to include a memo with the checks>>

    “Here’s your $8-grand, take what you need and return the rest before the end of the month…
    PS; the food-bank is open wednesday’s 10am to 4pm, monthly passes on the transit bus are available from Byron’s office, free daycare is handy at several churches in town, and we have a special supply of govt-employee android phones loaded with special-apps designed by Lynn and Santa…
    ……..if you return over $9-grand 3 months in a row you get interview for career advancement” :-p

    duh, maybe the dividends could be paid thru the campaign office??
    charting new territory, wahhht does Craig think about this 🙂

  3. Lynn Willis

    Speaking of new state positions, we now have a $8.000 per month “project director” to work on Medicaid expansion until the “state has firmly established a plan…..” .


    Personalities and political allegiance not withstanding. and regardless of the specific project, given the fact that we already have entire state departments dedicated to working on this and similar issues, I am curious as to what specifically this person will contribute that is worth $8,000 per month or is $8,000 per month simply the minimum wage for a political appointee in Alaska?
    Apparently our fiscal paradigm shift has still not been realized by those in Government. They cannot ignore reality and they will soon realize that “Denial” is not just a river in Egypt nor is it anyway to deal with fiscal reality.

  4. Garand Fellow

    We seem to have different understandings of the English language. I see nothing sexist or even negative in what I said about the new commissioner.

  5. akmom

    DOLWD hasn’t had a”big labor” Commissioner since Flanagan under Knowles. . Labor’s mission is to protect workers, help people find jobs, and provide assistance when they don’t have a job. I don’t know of Ms Drygas but her resume looks a heck of a lot better than the last commish.

  6. Leslie

    You don’t know Ms Drygas so you’ll make a sexist remark about her? Nice work. Read her bio and you’ll know she’s qualified.

  7. stunned

    Lenny I could not agree more, this is like the return of the worst aspects of the Knowles administration.

  8. Garand Fellow

    Mr. Peterson will do a fine job, whatever a fine job is in that position. He and his mom are very well liked and respected. He will easily overcome having worked for that senator. However, I cannot recall anyone in that job finding even a little success, at least as success is defined in any other job in the world. No one directs the legislature or legislation. Coons can eat ducks but no one can hunt ducks with a coon cat.

    I am encouraged that Larry Hartig will remain. He is a great commissioner and a leveling influence in any organization. He is that one in ten thousand attorneys that understands how to manage people.

    I don’t know Ms. Drygas. The camera likes her quite well it appears. The tradition is that Labor commissioners must come from big labor, and in fact she is said to do that. If Charles Dickens were writing an Alaska story he would have to find a commissioner with the name of Drygas.

  9. Curious in W. Anchortown

    Curious about the support for Tara Jollie for Commerce. Are folks talking about the same Tara Jollie that use to work at Commerce? This could make for some real giggles.

  10. akmom

    Some of the comments on this post are just inane. Boys and their statistics I guess. “We’ve got more D’s than R’s, blah, blah, blah.”

    I don’t give one little crap whether they are democrat, republican, or from the grand party of snowpeople, as long as they work in the interests of Alaska.

  11. DB

    It does not matter what letter follows a person’s name which is easily demonstrated in the Legislature. Take Senators Stevens, Bishop, and Stedman who have Rs after their names, but are mostly liberals. So, let’s forget about the alphabet soup and look more at what they stand for and their belief system.

  12. tom

    “pretty sure the ? folks were political appointees from Knowles” meant to say: “pretty sure the ? weren’t…” oops

  13. Hearts

    Tara Jollie is perfect for Commerce, workforce development and her passion for Rural Alaska is unbeatable. I would love to see her back in DCCED.

  14. Sam P.

    Sorry, Tom. Calling the COS a Republican doesn’t pass the giggle test. That’s like calling the Obamacare tax a fee. Those commissioners who remain will not be there for long and they’re still there now only because they are apolitical types, so take a look at just the new appointments, not the placeholders:

    DHSS – D
    Labor – D
    Legislative Director – R
    DF&G – D
    DNR – D
    Rev. acting – D

    The theory on Darwin is that they had to get an R in that position. At least they figured out that much.

  15. tom

    DOTPF -R
    DOA – Acting R
    DHSS – D
    Labor – D
    DOLaw – ?
    DOE – R
    DPS – R
    DCED – ? acting
    COS – R
    Leg Director – R
    DEC – R
    DF&G – D
    DNR – D acting
    DOR – ? acting
    DOC – ?

    no spin, no political interpretation – say the ? folks are D – still a broad mixture. pretty sure the ? folks were political appointees from Knowles, or d legis staff, or really active in whats left of the d party. no spin-just facts. its spin to say its spin, lets stop spinning.

  16. Anonymous

    In response to Tom’s 9:10 am post: poor attempt at political spin. Sorry dude, the facts suggest otherwise. Speaking of political spin, why is the Walker adm putting out announcements on Friday afternoons after 5 pm? Either they are ashamed of their appointments or the press office is inept. Let’s just say a pretty face reading the news doesn’t always make a good press person. Hartig is a good person by the way.

  17. tom

    I forgot to mention a much overlooked appointment that will either make or break the Governor’s agenda and that is the appointment of Darwin Peterson as legislative director. Peterson brings some great legislative depth to the 3rd floor. He has the experience, talent, and respect necessary to do a very difficult job. Walker’s “inner circle” is made up of a lot Republicans (still dont know what AG Richards party affiliation darn it) – Whittaker, Richards, Peterson…

  18. tom

    Good point for conversation. DOTPF is the most complex department in state government and spends the most non formula driven general funds dollars of any department (H&SS and Ed are also big general fund $$ spenders but most of the big stuff there is formula driven) and is headed by Pat Kemp – a Parnell appointee. Department of Education is one of the big 3 general fund spenders as well, much less complex than DOTPF, but with great impact on every Alaskan – whether its getting kids educated or holding property taxes down – is headed currently by a Parnell appointee. So, two of the three big state departments are Republican. Also, the hold over of Hartig at DEC, Folger at Public Safety, Dept of Law??? (I dont know what Craig’s party affiliation is) kinda indicate that this administration is casting a wide net without much regard to party affiliation.

  19. Crude is Rude, Gas is Groovy

    Lynn.. we don’t need much fun-ding to cleanup the sulfolane & other crud from underneath North Pole..
    ..what we need is a really big efficient pump & sewage treatment system.
    It’s also a desalinator and an environmental purification unit too.
    It produces 20megawatts of power..
    it’s self-propelled & mobile..
    it’s cheap to build for it’s size..
    and it really doesn’t need much fuel to operate it,
    actually it will be self-powered on sewage, or any wet crud.
    It’s based on 100 year old technology,
    and can be used for extracting the mercury out of the sediments under the Kuskokwim.
    It beats the tar outta those old steam powered bucketline dredges,
    and it’s a lot cuter too.
    I’m working on the AutoCAD drawings now…
    ….will work for smoked salmon, sprouted barley bread, & moose stew with veggies.

  20. Lynn Willis

    Am I allowed to ask what has the DEC accomplished since 2007 to mitigate such issues as the Sulfolane groundwater contamination at the North Pole Refinery or to start to address the absence of even primary sewage treatment beyond the open community cesspools (sewage lagoons) in places such as Nome and in the communities along the Kuskokwim and Yukon River drainages?
    In the recent years of big spending did the DEC ask for the funds to address these problems or, if they did, were they told that our State Government only funds mega projects and other efforts with maximum benefit to consultants, contractors and those who “develop our resources”?

  21. Lenny Griswald

    Well, this doesn’t really appear to be a “unity” administration. With the lack of Republican appointments one has to question just what kind of deal Bill Walker really made.

  22. tom

    Ms Drygas will be a strong addition to the new administration. She brings a well rounded background and a belly full of fire to make sure working people in Alaska get a fair shake. (the belly full of fire isnt from her recipes either)

  23. Leslie

    Heidi Drygas is an excellent pick. She grew up in a labor family and has been working for the Laborers for years. She’s born and raised in Fairbanks, she’s smart and she’s saavy. Good job, Governor Walker.

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