ANCHORAGE - Anchorage executive George Cannelos has been named federal co-chairman of the Denali Commission, which dispenses millions in federal funds to rural improvement projects in Alaska.
Cannelos, who starts work in October, replaces Jeff Staser as the full-time head of the seven-member commission.
Cannelos is familiar with rural Alaska issues, having served as general manager for the Bethel Native Corp., and as chief operating officer for Chugach Alaska, a regional Native corporation.
The former Alaska Air National Guard commander is president and chief operating officer at the Anchorage architectural and planning firm of Koonce Pfeffer Bettis Inc., and earlier served as director of the Heritage Land Bank, which manages land for the municipality of Anchorage.
Cannelos will be taking over an institution that received more than $120 million from Congress last fiscal year and oversees more than 1,000 projects, most in poorer rural communities.
"I'm going to be in a listen-and-learn mode for a while," Cannelos said.
Cannelos was appointed by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez last week following a recommendation from Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. Stevens wrote the legislation that created the commission in 1998.
Staser had announced his resignation in July on the heels of his struggle with five commissioners who called for more oversight on how Denali's $6 million administrative budget was spent.
A recent federal inspector general's report nothing illegal in Staser's spending decisions, but recommended tighter controls of the money spent on the commission's overhead.
Staser had said he was resigning because he felt his job in setting up the commission and making it a success was complete. He had held the post since the commission was created.
Staser said this week he expects to enter the private sector.
The other commissioners are University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton, Alaska Federation of Natives President Julie Kitka, Alaska AFL-CIO Executive President Jim Sampson, Associated General Contractors of Alaska Executive Director Richard Cattanach and Alaska Municipal League Executive Director Kevin Ritchie.