Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 7:51 PM on Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AG Sullivan to head Natural Resources

Morris News Service - Alaska

Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed current state Attorney General Dan Sullivan as Commissioner of Natural Resources, replacing former Commissioner Tom Irwin. Irwin was among a number of commissioners who Parnell had asked to submit letters of resignation after the Nov. 2 election, when Parnell was elected governor.

Parnell accepted Irwin's resignation along with several other state officials. He made the announcements Nov. 18 at the annual conference of the Resource Development Council at the Dena'ina Center in Anchorage.

In a bold move designed to shake up a department that has become divided into what he described as dueling "kingdoms" of sport and commercial fishing, Parnell named Cora Campbell, 31, as interim Department of Fish and Game commissioner effective Dec. 1.

Current Commissioner Denby Lloyd announced his retirement in September.

Parnell said the Alaska public is "tired of the acrimony" between competing sectors of the fishing industry and he has tasked the interim leadership team at Fish and Game led by Campbell to explore ways to further coordinate — and perhaps even consolidate — the separate divisions of commercial and sport fishing.

"The fishermen in Southcentral want to make sure they can get their fish in Cook Inlet just like the commercial fishermen of our state want to make a livelihood," Parnell said in an interview after his announcement.

"Instead of segregating (commercial) fish and sport fish, I think we ought to be merging the data sets together and agreeing on baseline fisheries data. That's what science is about. They shouldn't be operating from different data sets and advocating for different data sets."

Campbell, who has been the policy aide for fisheries under both Gov. Sarah Palin and Parnell, is clearly the governor's choice to hold the top spot but the Board of Fisheries and Board of Game must still submit nominees for the post.

Campbell has sat in Lloyd's place at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council since August after he was arrested for DUI in Juneau Aug. 9.

Campbell is a Petersburg native and grew up in the fishing industry. She has a degree in education from Pacific Lutheran University and is a former executive director of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association. She also has led subsistence outreach efforts after leaving PVOA and before being hired by Palin.

Parnell emphasized that his commissioner picks were not the "be-all, end-all" and said to watch for the people named to deputy commissioner and director positions.

"They're part of a team that will work well together on behalf of Alaskans," he said.

Arni Thomson, executive director of United Fishermen of Alaska, was both stunned and pleased that Campbell was named acting commissioner.

"I think she's a very capable person," Thomson said. "As a result of her job experience in commercial fishing and her experience as the governor's adviser, she has traveled widely in the state and has I think a firm grasp of a lot of the fisheries issues — commercial, sport, personal use and subsistence. That is an important piece of background she brings to the job."

Thomson said resolving the competing interests between fishing sectors is a must.

"I think (Parnell) has recognized that it is a priority issue he wants to deal with and I applaud him for that," Thomson said.

As Attorney General, Sullivan has been at the forefront of the state's battle with the federal government over offshore drilling restrictions and Endangered Species Act designations of polar bears and other wildlife.

"This post is a serious post about resource development," Parnell said. "It's about jobs for our future. Dan Sullivan has demonstrated his ability well in that arena, negotiating on Point Thompson, looking out for Alaska's interests with the federal government. Those same skills will be brought to bear at DNR. Energy is his background, energy is what Alaska is about and he'll bring new energy to that post."

Sullivan called the appointment to DNR a "big honor."

"This is a moment of great opportunity for our state," Sullivan said. "Our mineral, oil, natural gas and renewable energy resources are the envy not only of other states, but of entire countries. I look forward to working to further create opportunities to develop these world-class resources for the benefit of Alaska, Alaskans and our economic future."

RDC executive director Jason Brune was pleased with Parnell's mix of picks.

"The team members he announced today were superb and we're looking forward to working with them," Brune said.

Parnell also made appointments to several other state departments including Transportation, where Deputy Commissioner Marc Luiken was named commissioner, and Administration, where Becky Hultberg, now a hospital manager at Providence in Anchorage, was named as commissioner.

Parnell retained Larry Hartig as commissioner of Department of Environmental Conservation and Susan Bell as commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

Brune said he was "ecstatic" about Hartig staying on as the state has assumed the primary role in administering the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program for mining under the federal Clean Water Act. It will take primacy in the NPDES area for oil and gas next year.

"It's imperative he stay in that position," Brune said of Hartig.

One key position still unfilled is commissioner of Revenue, where current commissioner Patrick Galvin's resignation has been accepted by Parnell.

Parnell also now needs to fill the position of attorney general.

Galvin and Irwin, along with Marty Rutherford, a deputy state resources commissioner who has also resigned, were the key architects of controversial petroleum tax and natural gas pipeline policies of Palin, who resigned in July 2009.

Parnell, who was lieutenant governor under Palin, retained Irwin, Galvin and Rutherford when he took over at Palin's resignation, but decided to make major cabinet changes after he was elected to his own term as governor in the Nov. 2 Alaska elections.

The state Legislature must confirm Parnell's appointments after it convenes in January.