Confirming what most of us knew, Gov.-elect Bill Walker at long last filled some of the information-vacuum by announcing that Jim Whitaker will be his chief of staff. Whitaker is a former state legislator and former Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor, and a longtime friend of Walker’s. He was a board member of the Port Authority, which sought to build a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to Valdez. Walker has been the longtime lawyer and project manager for the authority.
Whitaker’s an outspoken Republican, with a big personality, and often bucks his party, which they tend to do up there. In 2008, he endorsed President Obama, even after Sarah Palin was picked to be veep. He’s also had some strong words about Republican legislators who he perceives have conflicts of interests with the oil companies.
Whitaker has plenty of fans, particularly in Fairbanks and in the media, but Joe Miller isn’t likely one of them. Whitaker was the mayor when Miller worked as a borough employee. Miller accused Whitaker of leaking confidential personnel information to the media in order to sabotage his 2010 Senate campaign. The case went to court. The borough and Whitaker settled for $5,000, and Miller claimed victory.
Walker also announced that Grace Jang will be his spokesperson. Jang was most recently a political reporter with KTUU. She’s known as fair but aggressive, an adjective often ascribed to women who are good at what they do.
Here’s Walker’s press release in full announcing the appointments:
“I have known Jim for many years and regard him as a trusted advisor. His previous experience as mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska state legislator, and Fairbanks businessman will serve my administration well. I have been in close contact with Jim in these days following the election. He is an integral part of the transition team and I welcome him to my cabinet.”
Walker also announced his appointment of Grace Jang as his spokesperson. Ms. Jang most recently worked as an investigative reporter and executive producer at KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage. Prior to joining KTUU, Jang was an award-winning reporter with CBS 11 News/KTVA in Anchorage as well as other stations and publications in the Lower 48. She is a past vice president of the Korean American Journalists Association, and is a current volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska.