Cotten picked for Fish and Game head; fish board members decline to interview Maw

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Wednesday, January 14, 2015 10:42pm
  • News

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article contained an incorrect spelling of Board of Fisheries member Sue Jeffrey’s name, and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

During deliberations over three of the four candidates for Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Board of Fisheries members weighed in with their opinions on the credentials.

But, when Kenai Peninsula commercial fisherman Roland Maw’s name came up its members were silent and voted unanimously not to interview him for the position.

During a joint meeting of the state’s Board of Fisheries and Board of Game, 14 people met and ultimately decided to send one name to Gov. Bill Walker as a recommendation for the position, that of Acting Commissioner Sam Cotten. If Walker approves Cotten’s nomination the Eagle River man will face a final confirmation from the Legislature before dropping “acting” from his title.

Several Board of Fish and Board of Game members supported Cotten, many citing his experience in the Legislature and on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

“He has an extensive background on Legislature, House and Senate, which I think is particularly important to succeed in this position,” said Board of Fisheries member Tom Kluberton, from Talkeetna. “This is very much a political figurehead position that involves the nuances of interfacing with the Legislature, both houses, and the governor.”

Cotten was in the state Legislature from 1975-83 and again from 1985-1993, according to his resume.

Board of Fisheries chairman Karl Johnstone said that Cotten’s position as interim commissioner, appointed by the governor, warranted interviewing him as a candidate.

“It’s the very least that we should do,” he said.

Of all the of the candidates for the position, Maw and Cotten drew the most support. Of the more than 50 people, fisheries organizations and municipalities that submitted comments or letters, support for Maw and Cotten was about equal. None supported any of the other candidates.

Many of the comments referenced Cotten’s support for rural communities.

“He understands their struggles and successes and wants them to flourish,” wrote Katherine Reedy, an anthropologist working in the Aleutians. “He knows the State of Alaska so well from Adak to Barrow and all points in between.”

Others supported Maw for his scientific and professional background.

“May I suggest, therefore, that Governor Walker selects a Commissioner who is not only politically astute and broadly experienced in all aspects of fish, wildlife and habitat management, but one who is a professional scientist who can communicate effectively with people at all levels of expertise,” wrote Stephen Stringham, of Soldotna-based Wildwatch. “If there is anyone who can help Alaska achieve a widely-accepted strategy for managing our fish and wildlife, including predator-prey relations, it is Dr. Roland Maw.”

Board of Game members weighed in to support Maw for an interview.

“(Maw) does have a considerable background and should be an interesting candidate,” said Board of Game member Pete Probasco from Palmer.

Two other Board of Game members openly supported Maw as well before that board voted unanimously to interview Maw for the position. Despite their support, Maw was not passed on to the interview portion as, according to state law, candidates must have a majority vote from both boards to progress through the appointment process.

Board of Fisheries members who voted against him did not explain their positions publicly, though Johnstone and Board Member Sue Jeffrey did make their opposition or support to the other three candidates known.

Johnstone said after the meeting that he had no comment on the board’s unanimous vote against Maw.

When asked about his lack of support for Maw’s candidacy, Board of Fisheries member Fritz Johnson, of Dillingham, wrote in an email: “I think the joint boards made the right decision in endorsing Governor Walker’s selection of Sam Cotten as acting commissioner and I believe as Commissioner of Fish and Game he’ll enjoy broad support from Alaskans who depend on our fish and game resources.”

Jeffrey, of Kodiak, did not return an email requesting her opinion on the matter.

Gov. Walker may choose to appoint Cotten, or he may also request additional names for consideration.

No one from the Governor’s office returned a phone call seeking a timeline for the appointment process. 

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Kenai Vice Mayor and council member Bob Molloy (center), council member Jim Glendening (right), council member Victoria Askin (far right), and council member Henry Knackstedt (far left) participate in a work session discussing the overhaul of Kenai election codes on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska.
Kenai City Council gives sendoffs, certifies election results

Both council members-elect — Deborah Sounart and James Baisden — attended Wednesday.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
COVID is No. 3 underlying cause of death among Alaskans so far this year

The virus accounted for about 7.5% of all underlying causes of death after a review of death certificates.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives during a floor debate on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, over an appropriations bill during the Legislature’s third special session of the summer. Multiple organizations reported on Wednesday that Eastman is a lifetime member of the far-right organization the Oath Keepers. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Data leak shows state rep is member of far-right organization

Wasilla area lawmaker said he joined when Oath Keepers first started.

Christine Hutchison, who lives in Kenai and also serves on the Kenai Harbor Commission, testifies in support of the use of alternative treatments for COVID-19 during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Medical liberty’ petition brought to Kenai City Council

Some members of the public and Kenai City Council spoke against health mandates and in support of alternative treatments for COVID-19

Amber Kraxberger-Linson, a member of Trout Unlimited and streamwatch coordinator for the Chugach National Forest, works in the field in this undated photo. Kraxberger-Linson will be discussing at the Saturday, Oct. 23 International Fly Fishing Film Festival the organization’s educational programming for next summer. (Photo provided by Trout Unlimited)
Out on the water — and on the screen

Trout Unlimited to host fly fishing film festival Saturday.

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)
Museums statewide condemn antisemitic vandalism

Two incidents, one in May, one in September, have marred the museum this year.

Three speech language pathologists with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were recognized for excellence during the Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association last month. (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
Peninsula speech language therapists awarded for excellence

“I was very honored to be recognized by my peers and colleagues,” Evans said in an interview with the Clarion.

Most Read