Just a month into the new legislative session, Kodiak Rep. Gary Stevens is moving to the state Senate.
Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed Stevens, R-Kodiak, on Wednes-day to the Senate seat representing Kodiak, Homer, Seward and other parts of the Kenai Peninsula. Murkowski made the announcement at a press conference late Wednesday afternoon.
Stevens will replace Alan Austerman, a Kodiak Republican who Murkowski tapped earlier this month to be his Juneau-based fisheries adviser.
The Senate appointment calms a sea of speculation that has roiled since Murkowski was first rumored to be considering Austerman for the fish post.
District 35 Repub-lican Party committee members met in Anchor Point on Monday and District 36 Republicans in Kodiak on Tuesday to cull to four the list of applicants for the seat. Those four names, two from each district, were presented to the governor Wednesday morning.
Murkowski was not bound by law to choose from the party recommendations.
"I thought the meetings went really well," said Alaska Repub-lican Party Chair Randy Ruedrich. "I was pleased with the two sets of district leadership. They managed to get the task done in a timely and orderly manner."
Ruedrich said Wednesday morning he was comfortable with the recommendations, and that he would be surprised if the governor's appointment was not one of the four names chosen by the districts.
The District 35 committee selected Pete Roberts of Homer and Tom Clark of Anchor Point as its recommendations; Stevens and former Kodiak Borough Mayor Jerome Selby made the cut in District 36, where Stevens earned an overwhelming majority of committee votes as the top recommendation.
Stevens vacancy in the House is expected to be filled within the next two weeks. Murkowski will make a selection from a list of recommendations provided by Kodiak Republicans.
Stevens' new position is good until a 2004 special election puts the question to the District R voters.
Stevens, 61, is a former Kodiak Borough mayor and school board member and a professor with the University of Alaska system for 25 years.
He was elected to the House in 2000 and re-elected in 2002.
While the governor was announcing his appointment at a Juneau press conference, Stevens was stranded at the airport in Sitka. He spoke to the Homer News by cellphone while the conference was going on.
"Has the governor announced it yet?" he asked. "I just found out about an hour ago. I'm really excited about it, really pleased. I want to spend as much time as I can getting to know your communities in District 35, making contacts there and with the borough."
Stevens said his focus has been on education and fisheries, and he plans on maintaining those concentrations while expanding his vision to meet the needs of his new constituency.
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said Wednesday he looks forward to continuing to work with Stevens.
"I know Gary," he said. "He's very qualified. I think he'll be able to get up to speed quickly and do an excellent job."
Chris Bernard is a reporter for the Homer News.
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