Health commissioner leaving for post at UA

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska's commissioner of Health and Social Services is resigning to take a job at the University of Alaska.

Karen Perdue, 47, who has held the commissioner's job for nearly seven years, will leave her job in Juneau in October to take a position as chief adviser to the university president on health and social service issues. She will be based in Fairbanks where her family now lives.

Perdue will focus on developing health-related programs and finding money for them. Her pay will rise to $100,000 a year from $87,000.

Her desire to move back to Fairbanks, where her son has started middle school, is one of the reasons she is leaving her post.

''I think that right now the university is a dynamic and exciting place to be. It's not just returning home,'' Perdue told The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on Thursday. ''I'm going to be entering a new challenge.''

Perdue's appointment follows confirmation of a $485,000 federal grant to the university to improve health and social service programs in the state.

Perdue said she will try to address shortages in health care workers such as nurses and bolster health-related research.

Gov. Tony Knowles and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens praised her tenure leading Alaska's second-largest department. The Department of Health and Social Services has an annual budget of $1.2 billion and manages programs such as the public health system and the juvenile justice system.

''I've come to rely on her sage advice and sense of commitment to helping all Alaskans,'' Stevens said in a statement.

Knowles appointed Perdue in December 1994, shortly after winning his first term. Under Knowles, Perdue helped usher in welfare reform and oversaw programs such as Denali KidCare and Smart Start, designed to provide health care and protect children from abuse.

Knowles' spokesman, Bob King, said a new commissioner would be named by October.

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