Controversial ferry system head Robin Taylor is out, Gov. Sarah Palin's office revealed Tuesday.
Taylor, a former Republican legislator from Wrangell, was appointed deputy commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities by former Gov. Frank Murkowski. Taylor oversaw the Alaska Marine Highway System.
"The governor just wants to move in a different direction with the ferry service," Palin spokesman Charles Fedullo said.
Leo von Scheben, new transportation commissioner, began his job Monday, and will work with the governor's office to select a new deputy commissioner for ferries, he said.
"We want to find a director of the ferry service who is driven by information, and driven to make the ferries have a consistent schedule and make the ferries come and go on time," Fedullo said.
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State Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, a longtime advocate for the ferry system, welcomed the change.
"I think a mistake was made early on by putting a politician in the management spot," he said. "This one had some fairly embedded ideas."
Elton likened the appointment of ferry system critic Taylor to run the system to "asking a deadhead to guard the medicine cabinet. It just didn't make sense."
Ketchikan civic leader John Conley, who chaired the Marine Transportation Advisory Board appointed by Murkowski, also supported the change in leadership.
"I think it is a good thing," he said.
"I'm not sure Robin really enjoyed working with MTAB," Conley said. "He wasn't really looking for advice. He had a predetermined outcome he wanted to achieve."
"Our role was to discover what decisions had been made and respond," Conley said.
Conley also offered a word of praise for Taylor, even while supporting his replacement.
"He was sincere with his ideas," he said.
"The bottom line is we've got a new administration and we're moving forward," he said. "The most important thing is we still have a marine highway system and we still have some really dedicated employees."
Fedullo said Taylor's last day was Jan. 31, but the new administration does not know whether Taylor yet knows of his replacement.
Typically, political appointees at the deputy commissioner level and above are asked to submit letters of resignation when a new administration takes office. Taylor did so, and the Palin administration has accepted the resignation, Fedullo said.
Transportation spokesman Mike Chambers said earlier Taylor has been on personal leave since the Palin administration took office Dec. 4, but he was unable to provide any other information about Taylor's status.
Fedullo said the governor's office has tried to reach Taylor. "We've tried many means to reach him," he said.
Those means include phone, fax and e-mail, he said.
Rumors around the Capitol have it that Taylor is traveling in New Zealand, but no one seems to know where those rumors originated.
Pat Forgey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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