Walker adds oil and gas advisor to cabinet

Gov. Bill Walker’s cabinet is changing again, this time by way of addition.

Walker announced Monday longtime oil industry professional John Hendrix has been appointed as his chief oil and gas advisor, which is a newly created cabinet level position. He introduced Hendrix during a luncheon held by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

Most recently, Hendrix, who has a degree in civil engineering, was general manager for Houston-based Apache Corp.’s Alaska operations. Apache announced in March that it would be pulling out of Alaska largely due to depressed oil prices. The company had been exploring for oil and gas in Northern Cook Inlet since about 2010.

“As Alaska navigates this new reality of low oil prices and production, the industry itself is grappling with ways to innovate amidst this economic downturn. I am pleased that John Hendrix will join my team to help steer the conversation between the state and the industry so the relationship is mutually beneficial. Given John’s nearly four decades of oil and gas experience, his insight is much needed and respected,” Walker said.

“I think there’s so much more we can do working with the industry and John will be a great liaison for that.”

A graduate of Homer High School, Hendrix started his career with in 1980 with Schlumberger Oilfield Services on the North Slope. He also spent 18 years with BP in Alaska, Russia and Britain before joining Apache in 2005.

He has served on the Alaska Oil and Gas Association Board of Directors and been the trade association’s vice president.

In recent months Walker has discussed ways for the state to collaborate with industry on the Slope to develop shared infrastructure as a way to drive down the cost of developing green field projects. He has used the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s direct investment in the processing facility at Brooks Range Petroleum’s small Mustang oil field on the North Slope as a concept the state could expand elsewhere.

Hendrix’s salary will be $185,000, according to Walker’s spokesman Corey Allen-Young, but it will not add to spending for a government that is in the midst of a hiring freeze and trying to reconcile a daunting budget deficit.

“We’ve made room (for Hendrix) without increasing our budget at all,” Walker said.

While a cabinet change of a different kind, Hendrix is the latest of several new faces in the Walker administration in 2016. Earlier this year former Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Myers announced his retirement. Myers’ interim replacement Marty Rutherford then retired at the end of June, but was also appointed to the Permanent Fund Board of Trustees.

Former Attorney General Craig Richards resigned abruptly in June as well, citing a need to spend more time with his family. The attorney general position was quickly filled by Jahna Lindemuth, who will officially take the reigns as the state’s top lawyer in August.

Richards may be coming back to Walker’s administration in another capacity. Spokeswoman Grace Jang has said no contract has been finalized, however.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

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