Walker names new chief of staff

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker announced Wednesday that Scott Kendall will become his new chief of staff, replacing longtime aide Jim Whitaker.

Whitaker, meanwhile, will become senior adviser on major projects. Both appointments are effective Dec. 2.

In a release, Walker said the projects that Whitaker will continue working on include an effort aimed at bringing natural gas to Interior Alaska and finding efficiencies within state corporations.

Walker said Whitaker has been working on those projects in addition to being chief of staff. Walker said the staffing change will let Whitaker focus on completing those tasks and serve as a point person for others.

Whitaker was one of the first appointments Walker made following his 2014 election.

When asked if the move was requested by Whitaker or something Walker considered necessary, Walker spokeswoman Katie Marquette said it was a mutual decision.

Kendall is an attorney who worked on Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s successful re-election campaign. He has been a managing director for the Black Rock Group, which provides campaign consulting, communications and other services.

Walker’s office said adjustments will be made to accommodate the changes within the office’s existing budget. Marquette said by email that the salaries for Whitaker and Kendall were being discussed.

Walker said Kendall will be a “significant asset” to his administration. Walker is nearing the halfway point of his four-year term.

“My team and I will be relying heavily on his strategic counsel and experience as we focus on fixing Alaska’s budget deficit and solving our fiscal crisis,” Walker said in the release.

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