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Board of Fish member rejected in close vote

Kemp, Blumer confirmed by Legislature for DOT and Labor

Posted: April 9, 2013 - 12:04am

Commissioners Dianne Blumer and Pat Kemp were confirmed Monday by unanimous vote of the Alaska State Legislature, which met in a joint session to consider Gov. Sean Parnell’s appointees.

Blumer was confirmed as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, while Kemp was confirmed as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

While neither Blumer nor Kemp faced opposition to their respective confirmations, one gubernatorial appointee was rejected in a close 30-29 vote.

Claude “Vince” Webster, a King Salmon resident and gillnetter whom Parnell named to a third term on the Board of Fisheries last month, was rejected in a vote that split mostly along rural-urban lines rather than on party lines.

Webster was supported by most rural and coastal legislators, but most of the large Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Valley delegations voted against him.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said he opposed a third term for Webster because he is unhappy with how he said Webster has advocated for certain interests.

"I had hoped to acknowledge that he is a very hard-working, knowledgeable and effective member of the Board of Fish," Stoltze said. "It's just that what good does that effect, effected, benefited the breadth of Alaskans? I know I think we can point to certain user groups that certainly have benefited, but this is the Board of Fish."

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, joined Stoltze in opposing Webster, citing his own support for higher escapement goals.

Supporters of Webster, including Reps. Eric Feige, R-Chickaloon, and Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, and Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, defended Webster, praising him as fair-minded.

"He'll work with anyone who comes to him with a proposal to introduce proper substitute language," said Kreiss-Tomkins. "I think it's an example of good faith and good process on the Board of Fish."

Webster's reappointment was opposed by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, which issued a "call to action" to prevent his confirmation last Thursday.

Webster's term expires June 30. Parnell will be required to make another appointment to the Board of Fisheries, again subject to legislative confirmation.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Parnell decried the Legislature's rejection of Webster.

"It is disappointing, discouraging and disheartening when bad information or politics prevent a qualified Alaskan from serving our state," Parnell said, adding, "I appreciate Vince’s willingness to serve these past six years."

Tom Kluberton and Reed Morisky were reappointed to the Board of Fisheries without objection.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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