Commerce boss takes leave to campaign for Walker

Commerce boss takes leave to campaign for Walker

Mike Navarre takes leave of absence to work on governor’s re-election bid

Mike Navarre, head of the state department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, has temporarily left his job in order to campaign for incumbent Gov. Bill Walker.

In an email to department employees this week, Navarre wrote, “I intend to focus a significant amount of my personal time and energy in the coming weeks on the upcoming election. As such, I have decided to take a leave of absence until early November so I can focus on advocating for the candidates and issues that are of great concern to me.”

“I think it’s fairly unusual for commissioners to do this,” Navarre said by phone on Thursday morning, but he felt it was important to do.

“It’s one of those things where I really wanted to help the governor with the campaign, and it’s one of those decisions where I can do it in my spare time, but I want to do more,” he said.

State law prohibits government employees from spending state time or resources on partisan political campaigns.

Navarre’s leave of absence started Wednesday and is effective through Election Day, Nov. 5.

In the meantime, deputy commissioner Fred Parady will be the department’s lead official, the letter states. In a public notice dated Wednesday, Navarre named interim replacements to the many boards and commissions that count the commissioner among their members.

“It meant my calendar just blew up,” Parady said by phone.

While he might now be busy, “in terms of the department, it’s steady as she goes,” Parady said.

This is the third time in four years that Parady has served as interim commissioner. “I’m familiar with it,” he said.

Navarre was appointed commissioner last fall when then-commissioner Chris Hladick was named director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency office for the northwestern United States and Alaska. Navarre had been mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough for six years and had supported Walker’s fiscal efforts during that time.

By phone, he said the economic development efforts of the Department of Commerce require a good fiscal plan, and getting that plan requires some campaigning. His deputies and division heads are prepared and ready to take over, he said.

Campaign finance reports show Navarre is a firm supporter of Walker. Navarre contributed the legal maximum to the campaigns of Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott this year and last, and he has contributed more than $1,200 to the Tongass Democrats, plus thousands more to candidates for public office. Navarre has generally supported progressive candidates, but he also contributed this year to the re-election efforts of Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage and Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage. Last year, he donated to the senatorial campaign of Kevin Meyer, now the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

Tim Berry, a Michigan resident visiting Juneau, fishes on a dock Monday near the Douglas Island Pink and Chum Inc.’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. A ban catching king salmon near the hatchery and some other Juneau waters is in effect until Aug. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Local king salmon ban not expected to have big impact on summer fishing, but long-term concerns remain

Ban due to 2020 landslide that caused hatchery pipeline break, disrupting multiyear spawning cycle

Juneau School District maintenance and custodial crew work on transitioning Thunder Mountain High School to Thunder Mountain Middle School on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Juneau schools empty out as classrooms and memories transition under consolidation plan

Transitions “ahead of schedule” for school district; use for vacant buildings by CBJ still in question

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, June 23, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Buck Laukitis’ boat, the Oracle, sits in Homer in May before unloading its catch of halibut. (Nathaniel Herz/Northern Journal)
As salmon season kicks off, some Alaska fishermen fear for their futures

Some signs of recovery for $6 billion industry a year into crisis, but major threats persist.

A cartoon sketch is seen on a cubicle in the offices of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. during an open house on Friday, Feb. 16. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
After email leak, some Alaska legislators say they’re skeptical of Permanent Fund’s direction

Members of the Alaska Legislature questioned the direction of the Alaska Permanent… Continue reading

City and state leaders gather Monday at the gangway to Aurora Harbor for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the third of four stages of reconstruction of the 60-year-old harbor. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Six years and one pandemic later, next stage of Aurora Harbor expansion is complete

New installations allow for longer vessels, provide utilities for final planned phase of project.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, June 22, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, June 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read