Alaska News

Gov. Walker names former running mate Fleener as Arctic adviser

Gov. Bill Walker's former running mate, who stepped off the ticket to pave the way for a Walker victory, has been named the new governor's special assistant on Arctic policy.

Craig Fleener will advise Walker on Arctic issues, said Grace Jang, spokesperson for Walker.

Fleener, a former Alaska Department of Fish and Game deputy commissioner from the village of Fort Yukon, opened the door for the formation of Walker's successful independent ticket, when Fleener stepped aside so Walker could join forces with Democrat Byron Mallott.

The move helped the Walker-Mallott campaign win strong support from unions and Democrats -- and narrowly beat Gov. Sean Parnell last month.

Asked if the job was awarded to Fleener in exchange for exiting the ticket, Jang said Fleener brings crucial expertise.

"His experience and knowledge is a tremendous asset to the administration whether or not he was a former running mate," Jang said.

Fleener, a Gwich'in Athabascan, has been involved in efforts before the Arctic Council to protect biodiversity in the region and to provide a voice for Gwich'in Natives. His experience includes chairing the Gwich'in Council International for several years, giving Gwich'in regions in Alaska and Canada representation before the Arctic Council. The council is an international forum advocating for Arctic issues that consists of eight member nations and indigenous groups that play prominent roles.

Former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, Parnell's liaison to the Arctic Council who has often attended council meetings as part of the U.S. delegation, said Fleener has done an excellent job before that organization. "He has been an incredibly articulate spokesman for the Gwich'in and I believe he'll be a very good spokesman for Alaska," Treadwell said.

Fleener had made Arctic issues a key plank in his abandoned campaign for lieutenant governor. On a Facebook post this summer, he wrote that Alaska must have a leadership role in the Arctic.

"Perhaps Congress has forgotten that the decisions they make that impact the Arctic affect our ability to make a living, hunt and fish, and even heat our homes," he said. "Being an Arctic citizen and having worked most of my life on Arctic issues and as a former permanent participant to the Arctic Council, I strongly believe that we, as a state, need a much stronger role in everything related to the Arctic."

Jang said she did not know what the position would pay.

Stefanie Moreland had advised Parnell on Arctic policy and fisheries and oceans. She has resigned, Jang said.

Jang also confirmed other moves Thursday. She said John Moller, who served as rural affairs adviser to Parnell and Gov. Sarah Palin, had resigned is no longer working in the governor's office.

"We're evaluating what to do with the position," Jang said.

Jang also said Ken Alper, a former legislative aide in Juneau who has served as the expert on oil and gas policy for Democrats in the House, has been named director of the tax division, a position previously held by Matt Fonder.

Also, Jerry Burnett has been appointed as a deputy revenue commissioner. He has served in that role previously.

He replaces Mike Pawlowski, who resigned when Parnell left office Monday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Wednesday she has picked Pawlowski to join the Republican staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Murkowski is currently ranking member.

Pawlowski played a key role for the Parnell administration as it overhauled the state's oil-production tax and advanced the proposed Alaska LNG project.