Peninsula residents lead, contribute to state boards

The Kenai Peninsula has a number of voices on Alaska’s myriad boards and commissions.

The state has about 130 active boards and commissions, which range in influence from the regulation-setting Board of Fisheries and Board of Game to smaller, advisory groups such as the Advisory Council on Libraries. Of Gov. Bill Walker’s 97 confirmed appointees to the various open seats on boards and commissions in the 2017 legislative session, eight are from the Kenai Peninsula, with others serving on boards that were not up for reappointment this year.

Walker named another round of 42 appointees July 26, two of whom are from the Kenai Peninsula.

“Alaskans who serve on a board, commission, or council are involved in critical work that impacts the everyday lives of their fellow citizens,” Walker said in a news release. “I thank those who have volunteered to serve, and look forward to seeing the work these appointees will accomplish.”

Members of some boards and commissions have to be approved by the Legislature, while others can be appointed and begin serving immediately. The rules depend on the board, said Jonathon Taylor, deputy press secretary for Walker’s office.

Walker’s appointees approved by the Legislature are almost perfectly apportioned to the percentage of residents in various regions of the state. The Kenai Peninsula’s approximately 58,060 residents make up approximately 7.8 percent of the state’s 739,828 residents, according to population data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Of the 97, approximately half are from areas outside the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Valley region, the largest urban area in Alaska, where approximately 54 percent of the state’s population lives.

The members of boards and commissions typically serve for three or four years. They contribute to revising and creating regulations on industries or state law, administer professional licenses and oversee state policies throughout the year. In the case of professional boards such as the State Medical Board or the Board of Pharmacy, the costs are paid by the license fees for members of that profession.

Peninsula residents also lead two of the most prominent boards in the state. Soldotna resident Peter Mlynarik is the chairman of the Marijuana Control Board, which sets regulations for the state’s nascent commercial cannabis industry, and Soldotna resident Ted Spraker serves as chairman for the Board of Game, which sets seasons and regulations on hunting in the state. Both were reappointed by the Legislature on May 16.

Peninsula residents also serve on a variety of other boards, from the high-visibility North Pacific Fishery Management Council — on which Buck Laukitis of Homer and Andy Mezirow of Seward serve — to more obscure boards like the Alaska Historical Commission, on which Michael Hawfield of Homer serves. All in all, peninsula residents serve on more than 40 different boards, with some residents serving on more than one board.

Soldotna resident Robert Ruffner stepped up to a position on the state Board of Fisheries, which sets regulations and seasons for commercial, sport and some subsistence fisheries in the state. Ruffner was previously nominated in 2015 but failed to gain legislative approval after a controversial set of appointment hearings. When board member Bob Mumford resigned, Walker nominated Ruffner again in 2016, who then sailed through the Legislature with minimal controversy.

All of the boards are subject to the Open Meetings Act, and some make formal regulations while others provide guidelines or recommendations. The Boards and Commissions office within the governor’s office recruits potential board members, and members of the public can apply for vacant seats via mail, email or fax.

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