Juneau laments cabinet creep

Almost half of Knowles' commissioners have main homes in Anchorage

Posted: Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Juneau lost another state commissioner to Anchorage in the recent round of Cabinet appointments by Gov. Tony Knowles.

The phenomenon of "capital creep" what observers call the gradual erosion of Juneau's status as the seat of government is still of concern locally.

As a result of Knowles' appointments in late August, the Cabinet now has six of 14 commissioners whose primary residence is in Anchorage.

"I think their living in Anchorage creates a real problem," said Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat. "I think that creates some inefficiencies. It's difficult to put a number on, or a dollar sign on."

"I do see erosion," said outgoing Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan. "I'm still very concerned."

Knowles appointed his former legislative director, Pat Pourchot, to succeed John Shively as commissioner of Natural Resources; Glenn Godfrey, former head of the Alaska State Troopers, to succeed Ron Otte as commissioner of Public Safety; and former Juneau Sen. Jim Duncan to succeed Bob Poe as commissioner of Administration.

Of the three new commissioners, only Duncan is based in Juneau.

Otte, citing the difficulty of living apart from his wife, moved back to Anchorage.

Godfrey, a former Juneau resident, said he will look for an apartment here in a couple of weeks, but won't live in the capital city full-time between legislative sessions.

"The governor indicated he definitely wants me to spend time in Juneau during the legislative session, as needed," Godfrey said. "That's where my base is going to be."

In the legislative interim, though, Godfrey says he'll need to do a lot of traveling, not just to Anchorage, but to rural areas of the state.

"In the next several months I'll figure out what the balance is," he said.

Pourchot, whose primary residence has been in Anchorage, said he's not changing his routine. He has lived in Juneau during legislative sessions, as Shively did, and will continue to do so, he said.

"The commissioner's going to be where he needs to be," Knowles said at the Aug. 29 news conference in which Pourchot's appointment to the DNR post was announced.

Regardless of residency, all commissioners have "a statewide responsibility" and go "wherever the issues take them," the governor said then.

"We move people to Juneau, too," Pourchot said more recently. "I think that's sometimes overlooked."

Deborah Sedwick, commissioner of Community and Economic Development, said she hasn't heard any complaints about living in Anchorage since just before her legislative confirmation hearings in 1998.

"In my department, I don't think it's made one bit of difference," she said, noting that she spends the entire legislative session in Juneau and delegates a lot of responsibility to her Juneau-based deputy.

Michele Brown, commissioner of Environmental Conservation, was criticized by local leaders and the Juneau Empire editorial board last year for moving to Anchorage.

Although she was portrayed as relocating for personal convenience, Brown said the move was best for the agency.

"A lot of what I do, personally, is extend relations," Brown said. She has spent increasing amounts of time in Anchorage talking with industry leaders about how to reconstitute a water permitting program that withered due to legislative neglect, she said. "You've got to be in dialogue."

As a result, Brown spent less time with her family in Juneau, suffering "a personal consequence" from a new agency direction, she said. The deputy commissioner and four of six division directors remain in Juneau, Brown said.

But Elton called it a "bifurcated" policy team and questioned the wisdom of separating Brown from the division director overseeing the monitoring of cruise ship emissions and discharges, one of DEC's hottest topics.

At the Department of Revenue, Commissioner Wilson Condon is in Juneau "the vast majority" of time during legislative sessions, and has been renting an apartment on Glacier Highway for several years, said Deputy Commissioner Larry Persily.

"It's not like he sleeps on someone's couch here. He spends a majority of the year in Juneau," Persily said.

Adjutant Gen. Phil Oates of Military and Veteran Affairs is based at Fort Richardson.

Along with Duncan, commissioners who are year-round Juneau residents are Ed Flanagan of Labor and Workforce Development; Rick Cross of Education and Early Development; Margaret Pugh of Corrections; Karen Perdue of Health and Social Services; Attorney General Bruce Botelho; Joseph Perkins of Transportation and Public Facilities; and Frank Rue of Fish and Game.

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