Gov. Frank Murkowski on Monday appointed state Sen. Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, to the position of fisheries policy adviser.
The position is based in Juneau. Austerman's resignation from the Legislature took effect shortly before his appointment was announced. Austerman was re-elected in November to represent Senate District R which encompasses Homer, Seward and Kodiak Island.
Murkowski said he expects to announce a replacement for Austerman's Senate seat within 10 days.
At a press conference announcing his selection, the governor said Austerman is well-acquainted with the issues Alaska's fisheries are facing.
"He certainly understands the issues, and I think he is going to meet the demands of the industry at this time," Murkowski said.
Before relinquishing the microphone to Austerman, Murkowski said that, having just stepped down from a Senate seat himself, he knew there was a certain amount of nostalgia associated with the change.
Austerman said he spent the better part of his legislative career dealing with fisheries issues.
"I'm very excited about the possibilities of working with the governor particularly in the salmon industry," he said.
Austerman listed expanding mariculture in the state among the events on his new horizon.
"The governor has indicated that mariculture is high on his list," he said, adding that salmon farming is not on the table now or in the near future. "But there are other species and we need to put them on the table.
"I'm trying to get out of the political arena," he said. "It's difficult to make policy calls and advice to the governor as a politician."
Austerman, 59, has lived in Kodiak nearly all his life. He is a 1961 graduate of Kodiak High School, and served seven years in the Alaska National Guard.
A commercial fisher, Auster-man served on the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly for eight years before being elected to the Legislature in 1994. He served six years in the House and two in the Senate. In the House, he chaired the Special Committee on Fisheries for four years.
"It's an exciting time for me," Austerman said during Monday's press conference. "It's an exciting time for Alaska."
Austerman begins work today.
Chris Bernard is a reporter for the Homer News.
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