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Taylor to take state transportation post

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) State Sen. Robin Taylor will leave the Legislature in September after 19 years to take a post with the Murkowski administration.

Taylor, 60, a Republican from Wrangell, will become a special assistant within the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Gov. Frank Murkowski announced the appointment during a press conference Friday in Ketchikan where Taylor had lived from 1961-1977.

Murkowski called Taylor a lawmaker with solid conviction whom not everyone agrees with, but who always knew where he wanted to go.

As a special assistant to the DOT's Southeast director, Taylor said, he will ''take on and help bring to fruition some of the great projects we dreamed about.''

He mentioned the proposed Bradfield Canal Road, a $300 million project south of Wrangell that would connect to the Cassiar Highway in British Columbia.

The road would be centrally located in Southeast Alaska and, among other things, allow fresh fish to reach markets in Seattle more cheaply than air freight, said DOT Deputy Commissioner John MacKinnon.

Murkowski cited the project in his first address to the Legislature. It would require constructing or upgrading 14 miles of road in Alaska and 58 miles in Canada.

Timber and minerals could also be shipped across the border and Alaska communities could tie in with Canadian power grids.

Alaska officials have been considering the project for more than two decades but the Canadian government has been unwilling to commit to the project.

Taylor also cited a project to link Southeast communities through a series of roads and shorter ferry trips between the islands.

In addition, Taylor will serve as a liaison for the Southeast intertie, a state-chartered regional power authority intended to create an electric grid providing cheap power to Southeast communities.

Murkowski also cited the Gravina access bridge project in Ketchikan, linking the community to its island airport, plus U.S. Forest Service access roads across Gravina Island and completion of the Metlakatla Road.

''I believe the greatest service that can be provided to this district right now is to get into the trenches and make sure those facilities get built,'' Taylor said.

He will earn an annual salary of $74,516 in addition to state benefits, said a spokesman for the governor.

Taylor began his career in the Legislature in 1984, serving in the House until 1992. He was appointed to the Senate in 1992 to fill the unexpired term of Lloyd Jones and he served three terms.

Taylor, a former District Court judge in Wrangell, served until 2003 as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he blocked efforts to limit tort claims in court.

Republican leaders installed Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, as Senate Judiciary Committee chair this year and a flurry of so-called ''tort reform'' bills cleared the Legislature.

Adept at raising the hackles of opposing politicians, Taylor's peers lauded his intelligence and savvy.

''He knows the system, he knows the people and he knows where the right buttons to push to get things done,'' said Rep. Bill Williams, R-Saxman.

Taylor ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign for governor in 1998 after the Republican candidate became embroiled in questions over campaign finances. Taylor unsuccessfully ran for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor in 2002.



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