Politics

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy replaces state’s transportation commissioner

Alaska transportation commissioner John MacKinnon retired on Friday, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named a 20-year transportation department official as his replacement.

In a written statement Friday, the governor’s office said Dunleavy has named Ryan Anderson, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities director for the region that covers northern Alaska, as his new transportation commissioner.

“It’s a big honor,” Anderson said Saturday, adding that he was asked if he would be interested in the job and accepted after talking with his family.

Anderson will begin serving as commissioner immediately, said Jeff Turner, a spokesman for the governor.

Anderson said MacKinnon had been planning to retire, and he’s not aware of any bad feelings between the former commissioner and the governor.

Andy Mills, a special assistant at the transportation department, said MacKinnon accelerated his retirement plans for family reasons. MacKinnon’s mother is experiencing health problems, Mills said, and he would like to spend more time with his grandchildren and work on his remote Southeast cabin.

Dunleavy said in his statement that he looks forward to working with Anderson, who “built an admirable record of achievement and public service during his tenure at DOT. He is widely respected across northern Alaska for cultivating positive relationships with all impacted stakeholders while completing vital public transportation projects on time and within budget.”

MacKinnon did not answer a message left on his cellphone Friday.

Anderson said he wants to focus on employee health and public safety as long as the pandemic continues. He’s following debates in Congress about a new infrastructure bill and said that if that passes, the department will be putting effort into the projects that will be funded. An infrastructure bill could be a chance to accelerate projects the state is already planning but may be a year or two out, he said.

In terms of continuing projects, he believes the Cooper Landing bypass on the Kenai Peninsula is the department’s biggest ongoing issue. He also said he plans to learn more about the state ferry system, since he didn’t have much experience in that area as northern region director.

The governor’s selection is subject to confirmation by the Alaska Legislature.

MacKinnon served as DOT’s deputy commissioner between 2003 and 2008, then became head of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska, a leading construction trade group. He was one of the first people selected for Dunleavy’s cabinet after the governor’s 2018 election.

MacKinnon’s spouse, former state Sen. Anna MacKinnon, is head of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division.

Anderson is a 1997 graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks and joined DOT as an entry-level engineer in 2000 after three years of work in underground mining, according to his state biography.

He lives with his wife and two children in Fairbanks. He said he intends to remain there as commissioner.

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