The state's top cop has been fired, he said Saturday.
Gov. Sarah Palin appointed Walt Monegan as commissioner of public safety shortly after her election in 2006. On Friday, Palin's chief of staff told Monegan he was being replaced.
The news came "out of the blue," said Monegan, a former Anchorage police chief.
"If the governor was upset with me for one thing or another, it had never been communicated to me," he said in an interview Saturday evening.
The big question -- why? -- went largely unanswered Saturday.
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the governor is now at the halfway point of her term and it's natural for her to make changes.
Palin wanted the public safety department headed in a new direction, Leighow said.
Asked Saturday what Palin wants to change, Leighow said she didn't have details.
"The governor feels that the department of public safety could be better served under new management," she said.
Palin offered Monegan a different job, as executive director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. He turned it down.
The head of the union that represents state troopers, one of the agencies Monegan oversaw, said replacing him was the wrong move and that troopers were happy with department leadership "for the first time in years."
Palin has called for cuts to the public safety budget, while Monegan wanted more troopers, said John Cyr, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association.
"Her basic mission is to cut the basic cost of government," he said. "I understand that. But when you do that with public safety, that means that people are less safe in their homes."
Leighow said she wasn't aware of budget decisions playing a role in Monegan's dismissal and that Palin is looking to trim spending across all departments -- not just public safety.
"The governor supports fully funding trooper positions," Leighow said.
This is not the first time Monegan has lost his job. In 2006, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich asked him to leave his post as Anchorage police chief early, although Monegan was willing to stay on another year. At the time, Begich had just won re-election and was restructuring department leadership.
Monegan joked that he's "getting a complex," but said the kinds of jobs he's had lately are ones where you serve at the pleasure of your boss.
"They can call me in and say, you know, 'I don't like your hair; you're fired,' " Monegan said.
For now, deputy public safety commissioner John Glass is filling Monegan's old job. The governor plans to announce a new commissioner -- selected from a short list of candidates -- later this week, Leighow said.
Monegan said he returned from working with wildlife troopers in Bristol Bay to Anchorage for the Friday meeting with Palin's acting chief of staff Mike Nizich. He figured they'd be talking about security for the upcoming governor's picnics, Monegan said.
Instead, he was offered the new job and told he couldn't keep his old one.
"When we sat down, (Nizich) started discussing how the governor wanted to utilize my expertise and enthusiasm to help people in rural areas and the Bush by becoming the executive director of the ABC Board," Monegan said.
"I said, 'What's this mean ... I guess I'm no longer commissioner?' He said, 'That's correct.' "
Find Kyle Hopkins' political blog online at adn.com/alaskapolitics or call him at 257-4334.