Alaskans seek jobs in Bush administration

Posted: Thursday, February 01, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- With thousands of positions to be filled in the new Bush administration, dozens of Alaskans are hoping the president will tap them for a job.

State Sen. Drue Pearce, for one, wants a seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and she has at least one big backer in Washington: U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski.

''Aside from her public service in the (state) Senate and in the Alaska State House, she has always taken quite an interest and developed quite an expertise in energy issues,'' said David Garman, Murkowski's chief of staff.

About 25 Alaskans are seeking Washington-based jobs in the new administration, but twice that many are vying for the five presidentially appointed jobs in Alaska, said Art Hackney, who co-chaired Bush's campaign in Alaska.

''There are a lot of big names going for a lot of big jobs in the government,'' Hackney said. Hackney and Veco owner Bill Allen are co-chairing a state transition committee that Hackney said serves as a clearinghouse for Alaska applicants.

Hackney said he urges applicants to try to get recommendations from Alaska's Congressional delegation.

Some of the most intense jockeying is to succeed Marilyn Heiman as special assistant to the secretary of the interior for Alaska.

The job is a big one, because the federal government and primarily the Interior Department owns about two-thirds of Alaska. The person who gets the job will be the chief policy advisor on Alaska issues to the new Interior secretary, Gale Norton.

The Interior Department and its various branches oversee national parks, wildlife refuges, federal oil and gas development, and the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Among those who have applied are five Alaskans who have been strong supporters of resource development: Former state House Speaker Ramona Barnes; former Resource Development Council director Becky Gay; former Natural Resources Commissioner Harold Heinze; Anchorage lawyer J.P. Tangen, a former gold mine executive and former regional solicitor for the Interior Department; and Cam Toohey, the executive director of Arctic Power, a group lobbying to open the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

Gay, now working as a consultant on North Slope issues, said it would be a great assignment.

''You directly report to the secretary of the interior from the state of Alaska, so you're a real gateway for information,'' she said. She said she hopes her nonpartisan voter status won't hurt her chances.

Barnes said this week she doesn't believe she has much of a chance.

''I think that's going to go to (someone in) Washington, D.C.,'' she said.

Another coveted job is U.S. attorney, a position now held by Bob Bundy. The U.S. attorney in Alaska leads an office of nearly 20 lawyers who prosecute federal crimes from cocaine smuggling to bank fraud and represent the government in civil cases.

One of Bundy's assistants is hoping to succeed him.

''I've got my name in,'' said Tim Burgess, who has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for 12 years. He prosecutes white-collar and environmental crime.

Other hopefuls include Larry Wood, assistant general counsel at Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., and D. Scott Dattan, an Anchorage attorney in private practice.

A former prosecutor says he's also interested in the job.

Wev Shea was sworn in as U.S. attorney for Alaska when Bush's father was president, although he was never formally nominated by the president and never confirmed by the Senate.

He was beset by employee complaints of harassment. After Shea left the job, the Justice Department paid a settlement to one attorney who had worked for him that amounted to about five years of her salary. Shea now has his own law office in Anchorage. He said he has also put his name in for other federal appointments.

The other Alaska jobs open in the Bush administration are U.S. marshal and two posts with the Department of Agriculture.

These are among 6,000 jobs Bush's transition team has to fill. More than 1,000 require Senate confirmation.

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