Gov. Sarah Palin has hired a new legislative director, her fourth in three years.
Jerry Gallagher, who until 2007 was a registered lobbyist for ConocoPhillips Co., will now represent the governor before the Legislature.
He started last Thursday, Palin Spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said, beginning work just before the hiring freeze Palin announced in her State of the State address later that evening.
Members of the Juneau's legislative delegation gave Gallagher positive reviews, despite his recent employment on the other side of oil tax and natural gas pipeline issues in years past. Gallagher lists on his resume the successfull defeat of an initiative to raise taxes on natural gas.
Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he expected Gallagher to be able to represent his new boss well.
"I think Jerry does a good job for his boss, and his boss is no longer ConocoPhillips," he said.
Before Gallagher's 10 years with ConocoPhillips, he worked at the state Department of Natural Resource for 10 years, often in the Division of Mining.
Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, formerly an oil and gas attorney with the Department of Law, said she worked with Gallagher in that capacity.
"He was a tough advocate for the state," she said. "I expect he will continue to be that" for the governor.
Legislators in Palin's first two years in office, when she was represented first by John Bitney and then Russell Kelly, the governor was sometimes criticized for failing to communicate with the Legislature. Kelly Goode, Palin's third legislative director, served a short period last year after the end of the regular session.
Elton said he wasn't worried about Gallagher's relationship with the Legislature, but whether he'd have a strong enough relationship with the governor to adequately represent her before the body.
"Is he going to be speaking for the governor?" he asked.
Rep. Cathy Munoz, D-Juneau, said she was looking forward to working with Gallagher.
"I understand that he has a very good reputation," she said. "I look forward to meeting and working with him.
Gallagher, who recently lived in Colorado, will only be in Juneau during the session under a full-time, seasonal contract that pays $8,584 per month.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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