Gov. Bill Walker named A.J. "Joey" Merrick II to complete the seven-member board that's helping head up state efforts to complete a $50 billion gas pipeline project, filling a seat that has been open for months.
Walker has taken heat lately from Republican lawmakers who say he's threatening to delay the public-private venture as he seeks changes to the plans.
One of the critics, Sen. Cathy Giessel, chair of the Senate Resources Committee, praised Walker's selection of Merrick on Monday.
Merrick, secretary and treasurer of Laborers Local 341, is an "outstanding" choice, Giessel said in a statement.
The Eagle River resident has "spent his career putting Alaskans to work, while ensuring all sides walk away from the negotiating table knowing everyone got a good and fair deal," Giessel said.
The selection must be approved by the Legislature.
Shortly after assuming office early this year, Walker fired three members of the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation board.
The board is heading up the state's efforts on two gasline projects that would tap natural gas on the North Slope, the Alaska Stand-Alone Pipeline and the larger Alaska LNG project that involves the state along with BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and pipeline builder TransCanada. This spring, the Republican-led Legislature stripped away money that could be used to advance the smaller line, so AGDC is now focused on the larger project.
The Legislature in April confirmed Walker appointments Rick Halford of Dillingham and Hugh Short of Girdwood. But lawmakers rejected the appointment of former Democratic Sen. Joe Paskvan.
Walker has not proposed a new member for the seventh seat until now.
Asked to explain the delay, Katie Marquette, Walker's press secretary, said, "Since the board was functioning with the open seat, the governor wanted to make sure there was adequate time to have a full slate of candidates to choose from."
Giessel said the selection will help the state focus on growing its economy through development of Alaska LNG.
A statement from the governor's office called Merrick a "highly ethical and effective negotiator," and said he has more than 15 years of experience as a construction foreman on projects related to Alaska pipelines.
Merrick has been involved with groups such as the Alaska Military Youth Academy, Resource Development Council for Alaska, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Support Industry Alliance and Commonwealth North, He previously served on the Alaska Workforce Investment board.
Walker also re-appointed Dave Cruz, president of Cruz Companies, which specializes in oil field services and construction support activities.
Cruz and Chair John Burns remain on the board from the Parnell administration.
"Dave Cruz brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the construction industry, and I am honored to re-appoint him to the AGDC board," said Walker. "His work on the North Slope and first-hand knowledge of cold weather construction are essential to moving a gasline project forward in Alaska."