Fish board plays politics – again

  • Thursday, January 15, 2015 8:40pm
  • Opinion

One would think that a person with a doctorate in wildlife management, experience working for state and federal agencies, extensive management and public relations experience and plenty of time spent afield in pursuit of Alaska’s fish and game would be an ideal candidate to interview for the job of Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Apparently, all seven members of the Board of Fisheries would beg to differ.

The Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game held a joint meeting on Wednesday for the purpose of reviewing candidates for the commissioner’s job. The boards had four candidates to consider, including Sam Cotten, appointed by Gov. Bill Walker as the acting commissioner in December, and Roland Maw, who has been active in fishery politics as executive director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association.

According to state law, “the governor shall appoint the commissioner of fish and game from a list of qualified persons nominated by the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game meeting in joint session, subject to the right of the governor to request additional nominations.”

As part of the process, the joint board first decided which candidates would advance to an interview. Two candidates were immediately ruled out, with members of both boards commenting on why they weren’t qualified for the job.

But when it came time to consider Maw — he’s the candidate with the extensive experience that would appear to make him an ideal candidate — all seven members of the Board of Game voted in favor of interviewing him, while all seven members of the Board of Fisheries voted against an interview — without so much as the courtesy of sharing a single comment on why.

Acting Commissioner Cotten was the only candidate to be interviewed and forwarded to the governor for consideration.

So, how can it be that all seven members of the Board of Game felt, based on his resume, Maw was worth at least interviewing, while all seven members of the Board of Fish voted in lock step to refuse to even give him the courtesy of an interview? Have Board of Fisheries politics become so poisonous that board members can’t even consider the possibility that an advocate for a commercial fishing organization wouldn’t be just as effective an advocate for a state agency?

Following the meeting, one board member, Fritz Johnson, of Dillingham, wrote in an email to the Clarion: “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.”

Cotten may in fact be a great choice for commissioner. But first, let’s be honest and say that the joint boards didn’t make that decision, the Board of Fisheries did by eliminating the possibility of considering any other candidate.

What’s more, the boards don’t pick the commissioner; their job is to send a “list of qualified persons” to the governor. On paper, Maw certainly looks qualified. It seems as though an interview would have helped to determine just why he isn’t.

We understand that Maw has a history with the Board of Fisheries. We understand that the governor has picked Cotten as the acting commissioner. What we don’t understand is why the Board of Fisheries would choose to limit the governor’s options for filling such an important job.

The next step is for the governor’s nominee to be confirmed by the Legislature. We expect lawmakers to carefully consider Cotten’s qualifications to lead Fish and Game.

But the Legislature also will be tasked with approving the governor’s nominees for seats on the Board of Fisheries this spring. We hope those candidates get a more thorough vetting than it seems current board members are willing to give.

More in Opinion

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Rep. Ben Carpenter: Time to disrupt our legislative process

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Fishing, energy move into spotlight

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Finding common ground on education

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks to attendees at a town hall event on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Taking action for workers, supporting kids

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Rep. Justin Ruffridge works in the Alaska State Capitol building on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Bills move forward and public weighs in

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Alaska House Rep. Ben Carpenter, center, speaks to constituents at the Alaska State Capitol, in this undated photo. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Ben Carpenter)
Rep. Ben Carpenter: Focusing on fiscal stability

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Alaska Council of School Administrators logo. (Photo provided)
Op-Ed: The K-12 Fiscal Cliff: Who is Responsible? Everyone!

Seven years is a very long time to go without a meaningful permanent state funding increase

Priya Helweg is the Deputy Regional Director and Executive Officer for the Office of the Regional Director (ORD), Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10. (Image via hhs.gov)
Opinion: Inflation Reduction Act makes prescription drugs less expensive and more accessible

The Medicare program, can, for the first time, negotiate a fair price for certain prescription drugs taken by millions of beneficiaries

Alaska House Rep. Ben Carpenter, center, speaks to constituents at the Alaska State Capitol, in this undated photo. (Courtesy Office of Rep. Ben Carpenter)
Rep. Ben Carpenter: Looking toward strategic education reforms

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks to attendees at a town hall event on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Hearings for bills on the horizon

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Rep. Justin Ruffridge works in the Alaska State Capitol building on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Energy on the front burner

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

In this undated file photo the Trans-Alaska pipeline and pump station north of Fairbanks, Alaska is shown. (AP Photo / Al Grillo)
Opinion: The PROVE IT Act would affirm Alaska LNG makes global sense

The PROVE IT Act is U.S. Senate legislation to study the emissions intensity of goods produced in the U.S. with those produced in other countries