Parnell revamps his communications team

Governor: 'The change will mean everyone has a more full picture'

Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Gov. Sean Parnell is restructuring his communications team, putting legislative director Jerry Gallagher in charge of overall strategy and promoting Sharon Leighow to press secretary.

The change moves former communications director David Murrow to a newly created position as director of media technology.

Parnell said putting Gallagher in charge of overall communications strategy will better coordinate the staff of the governor's executive office and communicate to the public what they're doing.

"The change will mean everyone has a more full picture," Parnell said in a Monday interview with the Empire's editorial board.

Previously, there had been some distance between Gallagher's job, which was to manage the relationship with the Legislature, and the communications director, who was in charge of the governor's message to the public.

"I saw a need to break down barriers," Parnell said.

Gallagher had begun working for former Gov. Sarah Palin in January. He had been a long-time state employee in the Department of Natural Resources before going to work for ConocoPhillips Co. as a lobbyist. He was living in Colorado when Palin hired him.

Murrow had taken over as Palin's communications director in June, just before her surprise July 3 resignation announcement.

Gallagher had originally been hired to work part-time during the legislative session, but is now full time, Leighow said.

Murrow had been the fourth full-time communications director during Palin's two and a half years as governor. Parnell had earlier said Murrow would be staying on as communications director.

On Monday, Parnell said the change of Murrow's duties was not a downgrade, but was instead intended to utilize his strengths in media technology, a business in which he has worked for many years.

"He's a creative genius," Parnell said.

Leighow, who has held the title of deputy press secretary since former Gov. Sarah Palin took office in 2006, is now the press secretary. She will remain the main point of contact for reporters and act as the governor's spokesperson, he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or by e-mail at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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