Palin picks fellow Mat-Su resident as top attorney

Native leader tapped to lead economic development

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gov. Sarah Palin appointed more top staff Wednesday, including an attorney general who believes in "strict interpretation" of the Alaska Constitution and is a fellow Mat-Su Borough resident.

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Talis Colberg is a lawyer in private practice in Palmer and has served two terms on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly.

Also appointed were a well-known Democrat as commissioner of the Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development, and a highly regarded holdover from the Murkowski administration as commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services

Emil Notti, an engineer, prominent Alaska Native leader and former Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, will lead the state's economic development efforts while Karleen Jackson will remain as head of Health and Social Services.

Also appointed were Kris Perry as director of the governor's Anchorage office and Sharon Leighow as Anchorage deputy communications director and deputy press secretary.

Palin's new top attorney described himself as a "small-town lawyer," while Palin described him as someone with a "profound respect for the Constitution of the State of Alaska."

New appointments

Attorney general - Talis Colberg

Health & Social Services commissioner - Karleen Jackson

Department of Commerce, Community & Economic director - Emil Notti

Governor's Anchorage office director - Kris Perry

Anchorage deputy communications director/Deputy Press Secretary - Sharon Leighow

Colberg has little public service experience outside the Mat-Su Assembly, but Palin said he would "bring a fresh perspective on all issues as a legal advisor to the governor and other state officers."

She said Colberg has an understanding of the state's history and would provide unbiased legal advice.

Palin said Notti would work to improve the economy of Alaska's rural communities.

"Before the pipeline, Alaska's villages had 80 percent unemployment - it is still that number today despite Alaska's growth in wealth and population," she said.

Notti served previously as a commissioner as the commissioner of the Department of Community and Regional affairs under Gov. Bill Sheffield. He also was the first president of the Alaska Federation of Natives and a 30-year board member of the National Bank of Alaska.

Jackson, continuing as top manager at the Department of Health and Social Services, was first appointed commissioner in October 2005. She was previously deputy commissioner for two years and executive director of Catholic Social Services of Alaska in Anchorage for 12 years.

Joining Palin's administrative team will be Perry, in charge of the governor's Anchorage office. Perry previously was general manager for Alaska DigiTel and general manager of MTA Wireless. Perry graduated from Wasilla High School and lives in Wasilla with her husband and children.

Based in Anchorage as deputy communications director and deputy press secretary, Leighow is well-known in Southcentral as a personality on the Dan Fagan Radio Show. She is the program director for KFQD and KHAR in Anchorage.

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