U.S. Rep. Peltola announces staff changes ahead of 1st full term in office

As Alaska Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola looks ahead to her first full term in office, her team has grown to eight staffers in her Washington, D.C., office and three staffers in Alaska. Peltola also announced that Alex Ortiz, a Republican from Ketchikan, is officially staying on as her chief of staff.

In a scramble after Peltola won an August special election to serve out the rest of the late Republican Rep. Don Young’s term, Peltola assembled a skeleton staff of five. Ortiz, who previously worked in the same role for Young, led the team, and his hire captured attention on Capitol Hill as a rare bipartisan pick.

“Her wanting to have me continue on is really great in her continued commitment to bipartisanship and continued commitment to working on the legacy of Congressman Young, and it shows that we’re going to have a really diverse team down here in D.C. and in Alaska,” Ortiz said in an interview Tuesday.

Ortiz said Peltola is heading into the next Congress with “a full policy team.” Elizabeth Othmer will lead that team as legislative director and counsel. Othmer previously worked for New Mexico Democratic Rep. Melanie Stansbury, and is taking the reins from Peltola’s former senior policy adviser, Larry Persily, a former deputy revenue commissioner for Alaska and federal coordinator for Alaska natural gas projects.

Peltola announced that Simone Auger will serve as legislative assistant covering natural resources issues. Auger joins Peltola’s team from Oregon Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader’s office. Logan Basner, who was working for Peltola in Anchorage, is moving to D.C. to work on transportation, infrastructure and labor issues.

Peltola’s interim director of scheduling and operations, Paula Conru, an alumna of Young’s office, is leaving. Peltola is bringing on Bre Klayum, who previously worked for Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, as scheduler and office manager.

Lauren Noland, who also previously worked for Young as well as Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, is joining Peltola’s office as legislative correspondent.


Some of the early hires remain part of Peltola’s team, including Claire Richardson, director of constituent services, and Sam Hiratsuka, legislative assistant for Native affairs and rural issues.

Ortiz said he does not have an exact target for how many more hires lie ahead for the office, but he imagines it will be a similar size to Young’s former staff of approximately 14.

Some holes in the staff remain. Hector Jimenez, who served as Peltola’s state director, officially left his role on Jan. 1. Also, Peltola’s interim communication’s director, Josh Wilson, left the team. Wilson said in September that he planned to help out the new representative on a temporary basis.

“I’ve enjoyed my time back in D.C., but my heart is in my home state of Iowa,” Wilson wrote in a message to Alaska press last week. “As previously reported in Roll Call, my most important role during this transition was helping the representative secure a replacement for myself. I’m happy to report that mission is complete!”

Ortiz said Peltola’s office will have a new director of communications by mid-January, but declined to say who will fill the vacancy left by Wilson.

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Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.