Governor appoints ex-lawmaker to lead Dept. of Administration

Miller to oversee labor contract negotiations

Posted: Monday, February 03, 2003

Former state Senate President Mike Miller will take over leadership of the state Department of Administration, Gov. Frank Murkowski announced Saturday.

Miller, 51, served on the North Pole City Council from 1976 to 1980. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1982 and to the state Senate in 1992, where he served as Senate president in 1997 and 1998. Miller retired from the Senate in 2000 after serving two four-year terms. He could not be reached for comment today.

"I think Mike Miller is a good selection," said former Administration Commissioner Jim Duncan, a former Democratic lawmaker from Juneau who served in the Senate with Miller. "He'll grasp the ins and outs of that agency readily."

As commissioner, Miller will assume a variety of responsibilities. The department oversees the Senior Services Division, the Public Defender Agency, the Public Broadcasting Commission, the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Office of Public Advocacy, the Public Offices Commission, and the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Miller will serve his term as commissioner in Juneau.

Murkowski spokesman John Manly said he is not aware of plans to reorganize the department.

One of the department's main challenges will be handling union issues and labor negotiations, Manly said.

Contracts for 10 of the 12 labor unions representing state workers are set to expire in June. Manly said no agreements have been made in the contract negotiations. Former Department of Administration Commissioners Bill Hudson of Juneau and Andy Warwick of Fairbanks have been meeting with the unions since December on behalf of the Murkowski administration.

Miller has not had the smoothest relationship with unions.

During the Legislature's 1996 session, Miller accused then-Gov. Tony Knowles of being a "middleman" for the unions and suggested lawmakers negotiate directly with the unions. And the same year, he pushed a measure unions strongly opposed that would have linked funding of state workers' contracts to reductions in pay and retirement benefits.

Duncan said the new commissioner's duties also will include overseeing the $100 million telecom partnering program between the state and Alaska Communications Systems to install video conferencing systems in state offices throughout Alaska.

The five-year contract that was signed in December 2001, Duncan said, was intended to establish an ongoing partnership between the public and private sector.

In addition to his legislative service, Miller has served in the Alaska Air National Guard and attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He managed the family gift shop, Santa Claus House, for years and ran for lieutenant governor in 1994.

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