Governor-elect Mike Dunleavy named Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock as his new chief of staff in a Thursday speech to the Alaska Miners Association.
The speech formally opens the transition process between the administration of Gov. Bill Walker and his new incoming administration.
“There’s going to be hundreds of folks and hundreds of positions that are going to turn over,” Dunleavy said.
Babcock resigned from his political chairmanship shortly after Dunleavy’s speech.
He and Babcock each said they have set up a transition website, www.governormikedunleavy.com, to accept applications from people interested in joining the new administration. Sarah Erkmann Ward, the spokeswoman for the new governor’s transition team, said by phone that while Dunleavy has some ideas for commissioners, that shouldn’t preclude people from offering their names for those top-level jobs.
Administrative turnover is common when a new governor is elected; Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Larry Hartig is the only currently serving commissioner who was appointed under a different governor. He has served in his role since being appointed in 2007 by Gov. Sarah Palin.
“All of the above,” Ward said when asked what positions might be available.
“There’s going to be a change in philosophy” between Walker and Dunleavy, she said.
Some of that change was evident Thursday afternoon as Dunleavy spoke to the Miners Association and repeatedly used the phrase “open for business.”
“Under my administration, I can tell you right now, that Alaska is open for business,” Dunleavy said.
He pledged to make resource development — a commonly used euphemism for mining, drilling and logging — the cornerstone of his economic policy.
“You’re going to be at the cornerstone and forefront of everything we’re doing,” he said.
He pledged to do it quickly as well.
“You’re going to have to put on your seatbelts because this is not going to be a slow crawl,” he said.
He emphasized that his interest in mining is not limited to metallic mines like Red Dog in the Northwest Arctic Borough. (Dunleavy’s daughters work at the mine.)
“That’s right, coal. Not just lead-zinc, but coal. Coal is going to be part of it,” he said.
Alaska’s only operating commercial coal mine is the Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy, near Denali National Park. Demand for coal from the mine has plunged in recent years, causing problems for the local community and the Alaska Railroad, which relied on revenue from coal shipments for much of its operating budget.
Dunleavy also offered support for the under-development Donlin Mine in southwest Alaska.
In his first public address since winning the statewide election on Tuesday, Dunleavy thanked Gov. Walker and Democratic candidate Mark Begich.
“Mark is an Alaskan, born and raised here, and I think he wants what we want, which is a great Alaska. We just disagree on how to get there,” Dunleavy said.
In addition to naming Babcock his chief of staff, Dunleavy appointed his campaign manager, Brett Huber, as a senior policy adviser. Ward said Huber will be developing policy positions for the new administration.
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