Two hours after he took office, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker added to his cabinet Monday by appointing two commissioners and a deputy commissioner in three key departments.
Walker chose Valerie Davidson to lead the Department of Health and Social Services and former state legislator Sam Cotten as acting commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. He named Marty Rutherford as deputy commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, a post she also held during the administration of former Gov. Sarah Palin.
Davidson, originally from Bethel, has worked on health policies for more than 15 years. Her most recent position was as a director of legal and intergovernmental affairs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. She was chairwoman of a technical advisory group to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for a decade, representing all tribes during that period.
She earned a law degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law and has a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Alaska Southeast.
Walker, who said he began work Monday to expand Medicaid services, said Davidson is an expert on the topic. "I look forward to sitting down with Valerie and hammering out a plan for the coming weeks," Walker said.
Among other actions, Davidson was a key figure in negotiating agreements with the Veterans Administration to allow veterans to get care in their communities and helped advance efforts to streamline rural sanitation projects.
Cotten, who served 16 years in the Legislature, is a former House speaker and a Navy veteran who served two tours in Vietnam. Cotten lives in Eagle River and has served on a number of fisheries-related boards including the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
Cotten is among those under consideration for a permanent appointment as Fish and Game commissioner.
"Sam has a long history of public service in Alaska," Walker said in a press release. "I'm confident his strong fisheries background and legislative experience will guide us through this critical transition period."
Walker said Rutherford is a "natural fit" to serve in DNR.
"I know and trust Marty. She will hit the ground running and do an outstanding job," Walker said.
Rutherford, who worked 19 years for the state, has most recently been the special programs manager for Linc Energy, an oil company doing business in Alaska.