Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell announced Monday he'll be retaining John Moller as the governor's rural advisor when he assumes the governorship following Gov. Sarah Palin's resignation July 26.
Moller, a Juneau resident for the past 10 years, was born in Unalaska and has worked in crab and gillnet fisheries in the Bering Sea and Southeast Alaska, respectively, as well as in fishery management for many years.
The continuation of Moller's role won praise from Native leaders concerned about rural issues.
"John was one of the bright spots of the Palin administration as far as I was concerned," said Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon.
Kookesh also is chairman of the Southeast regional Native corporation Sealaska, and co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
Moller now gillnets in Southeast, and Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp President Brad Fluetsch said that puts Moller out on the fishing grounds and in villages where he can see what is happening.
"He's hearing everything, the good, the bad and the in-between," Fluetsch said, adding that Moller can take what he learns back to the governor's office. "He gave Gov. Palin good advice, and I'm sure he'll give Gov. Parnell good advice," he said.
Moller is an Alaska Native, in contrast with Palin's first rural advisor, journalist Rhonda McBride. When McBride resigned last fall, she said the rural advisor position should be filled by an Alaska Native.
The Native community had criticized Palin during the election and since for a lack of attention to rural and Native issues.
In contrast to Parnell's announcement Monday, the Palin administration did not publicly announce Moller's original appointment. At the time, Moller declined interview requests from the Empire, and was unavailable Monday as well.
"John's strong community leadership has given him the tools to be an effective advocate for rural Alaska," Parnell said in a press release. "Together we can continue to work hard for Alaska's rural communities."
Parnell also announced Moller would be taking on additional duties as a staff assistant to the governor responsible for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs as well as the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the additional duties would not mean reduced attention to rural issues.
"He's been asked to take on additional duties, and he's agreed and will balance his duties," she said. The new duties were assigned May 27, she said.
Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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