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Parnell says 27 to vie for top job at Alaska Guard

  • Author: Nathaniel Herz
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 17, 2014

Gov. Sean Parnell on Friday announced that 27 people have applied for the top position at the Alaska National Guard.

A committee appointed by Parnell is expected to select a group of finalists in the next week to forward to the governor, who will conduct personal interviews before choosing a replacement for former Adjutant General Thomas Katkus.

Katkus was fired by Parnell early last month on the same day the state released a critical report by federal investigators about the guard, which detailed a climate of sexual misconduct, fear and harassment that the guard's leadership allowed to persist.

The adjutant general job pays $137,700 annually, and responsibilities include overseeing the guard with its 4,000 members as well as serving as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Applicants include Margaret Stock, an Anchorage immigration attorney and retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve who last year received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."

Another is Otto Feather, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who recently worked as a traveling aide to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan.

Three other applicants were involved in a strange episode this month that saw a pair of top guard officers fired and rehired in a two-day period by Brigadier Gen. Mike Bridges, the top acting guard official in Alaska.

All three are vying for the adjutant general position -- the reason Bridges said he ultimately rescinded his firings -- and one of the rehired officers, Col. Edie Grunwald, listed Bridges as one of her references.

Parnell, a Republican who is running for re-election, released a 277-page document at 3 p.m. Friday with resumes and cover letters from the 27 applicants -- many of whom included long lists of their awards and accomplishments. One candidate, Murray Hansen, included a list of 64 references.

The 277-page document included other materials from the applicants, like an eight-point "white paper" submitted by one candidate, Robert Preiss, that outlines a program to reform the guard. Preiss' points include "emphasize respect for women as a basis for amplified leader message on sexual harassment and assault" and "attack fraud with more resources."

But the candidates' resumes and letters also had information redacted. There were obvious reasons for some redactions, like salaries and telephone numbers, but others were less clear.

Hansen provided results from fitness tests that included scores for push-ups and sit-ups, but the results for a category listed as "abdominal circumference" were redacted. Grunwald, meanwhile, had not only her home phone number and marital status redacted but also her sex.

And one candidate, Paul Darling, even had the name of his "very old" Labrador Retriever deemed off-limits.

"They wipe all families' names," a spokeswoman for Parnell, Sharon Leighow, explained in an email. "I can divulge…the dog's name is Biscuit."

ADN reporter Richard Mauer contributed to this story.

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