Poe's departure leaves 3 empty seats in Knowles' cabinet

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

State Administration Commissioner Bob Poe has been selected as the new executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a quasi-independent public corporation that assists businesses.

Poe, 46, a 17-year journeyman in state government, is a former AIDEA business development manager. He will move back to Anchorage to take up his new post, which includes the directorship of the Alaska Energy Authority.

I love to do economic development, he said. There are very few opportunities in your life where you can contribute so much to the economy of Alaska.

His departure, set for Aug. 28, creates three vacancies in the cabinet of Gov. Tony Knowles. The governor also is looking for new commissioners of natural resources and public safety.

In a news release, Knowles praised Poe for doing a tremendous job.

Were fortunate to retain his talents and energy at AIDEA, one of the most powerful engines driving the Alaska economy, the governor said.

Knowles spokesman Bob King said there is no short list yet for Poes successor, but he said the governor hopes to make a decision within the next month.

At AIDEA, a vacancy was created in mid-July when Executive Director Randy Simmons left to pursue an opportunity in real estate development, said Katelyn Markley, development specialist for the agency.

AIDEA assists with loans for business startups and expansions, such as the Mount Roberts Tramway operated by Goldbelt in Juneau. It also operates some business-support services. It owns the Snettisham hydroelectric plant, which is operated by Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. and which generates about 85 percent of Juneaus power.

In 1997-98, Poe oversaw AIDEAs development finance program and also managed AIDEA-owned and -operated projects, including the road and port for the Red Dog zinc mine near Kotzebue.

He left in early 1998 to become Y2K coordinator for the state and kept those duties even after being appointed commissioner in December 1998.

Since then Poe has negotiated 12 three-year contracts with public employees and worked with the Legislature to fund them, culminating in a special session this spring.

Sen. John Torgerson, a Kasilof Republican who co-chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said that even though Poe arrived in the middle of the contract negotiations, he was able to scale back union demands.

I believe he did the best he could have done or anyone could have done, Torgerson said.

Don Valesko, business manager of Public Employees Local 71, which represents about 1,500 state employees, said that while he had differences of opinion with Poe, he couldnt blame him for being blunt.

He came out with a little different style, saying Heres what weve got; this is our bottom line; this is where were going to end up, Valesko said from Anchorage. I appreciated where he was coming from, given the realities of the Legislature we were dealing with.

Poe completed another big task this month, as the Department of Administration issued a request for proposals for a single contractor to handle all of the states telecommunications. Currently, 357 separate contractors handle about $21.5 million of the states $26 million telecommunications operation, Poe said.

Poes salary is going up from $84,000 to $110,000, according to King, the governors spokesman. And Poe will be able to move back in with his wife, Terzah, who kept her job in Anchorage when he left for Juneau.

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