Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed three new members, including one from the central peninsula, to serve on the Alaska Board of Fisheries.
The new appointments were announced Friday. They are Soldotna fishing guide Andrew Szczesny, Kodiak commercial fisher Oliver Holm and Sitka resident Eric Jordan, who has worked as both a commercial fisher and sport fishing guide.
The three appointments come on the heels of Knowles' five appointments to the state Board of Game. All were needed to fill vacancies on the two boards, which make hunting and fishing rules for the entire state.
Earlier this year, Knowles attempted to fill the fisheries seats with different appointments. However, controversy over the nomination of Kenai River Sportfishing Association executive director Brett Huber of Soldotna caused the Alaska Legislature to block the appointments by failing to vote on them before the end of the session. Because of that, the governor had to find new people to fill the seats, according to his press secretary Bob King.
"The criteria (Knowles) looks for are experience, interest in serving on the board and a willingness to serve. Also an interest in the board process and the ability to work through difficult problems the way the board has to do," he said.
King said finding such people is hard work, especially considering the volume of work Board of Fish members have to do.
"They have to devote a considerable amount of time. It's a big obligation for anyone who wants to volunteer for that," King said.
The new members could have short terms on the board, depending on what the next governor elects to do. Whoever is elected to replace Knowles will have the option of replacing Knowles' picks. However, King said that didn't play into the governor's decision.
"He wasn't interested in people who just wanted to be caretakers," King said.
"I don't know what the next governor will choose to do. We don't have any control over that. We were more interested in looking at good, qualified people for the job. Hopefully, the next governor, whoever he or she is, will agree with us that these individuals are worthy of submitting to the board."
Soldotna's Szczesny owns a small trout fishing guide service. He said Friday that he is looking forward to serving on the often controversial board.
"It's gonna be a lot of work," he said.
Szczesny said he's willing to serve because of his desire to make sure Alaska's natural resources are maintained.
"I know it's gonna be a lot of work, but the resource is very important to me," he said.
Local fishing groups were quiet Friday following the announcement of the new appointments, possibly signaling an end to the fighting over board appointments that has marred the process for the past few months.
Huber, who still works as KRSA executive director, said his organization is looking forward to working with the new appointments.
"We, as we do with any appointments, look forward to working with those guys as they go through the process of the Board of Fish," he said.
The Kenai Peninsula Fishermen's Association did not return calls to its office Friday, and United Cook Inlet Drift Association executive director Roland Maw said his group had no comment on the appointments.
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