Dunleavy: no ‘preferred choice’ to lead ADFG
Newly-inaugurated Gov. Mike Dunleavy has tapped Doug Vincent-Lang to temporarily head the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and a spokesman said he intends to let the nomination process by the boards of Fisheries and Game lead the way to select a commissioner rather than announcing his own choice.
Dunleavy announced the appointment just after his inauguration Dec. 3 in Kotzebue. Vincent-Lang, a veteran of the department, will serve as commissioner on an interim basis, replacing Sam Cotten.
Vincent-Lang, who holds degrees in biology and biological oceanography, has previously served as a research biologist, as the director for the Division of Wildlife Conservation and as a special assistant and assistant director of the Division of Sport Fish.
In a press release announcing the appointment, Dunleavy noted that “it is important that someone is in the position to manage the Department while the Joint Boards of Fish and Game go through their process of nominating potential commissioners.”
“The Governor respects that process and looks forward to the recommendations from the Joint Meeting of the Board of Fish and the Board of Game,” the release notes.
In response to a follow-up question, spokesman Jeff Turner said Dunleavy “does not have a preferred choice for commissioner of fish and game. The board determines the best person to fill the job.”
That’s a departure from Dunleavy’s two predecessors, who named their pick to lead ADFG before a joint meeting of the boards.
The boards, which are independent of the department, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature, will advertise for the position and will meet in January to take up the appointment, Turner said.
Dunleavy is following a fairly normal process for appointment so far, according to Glenn Haight, the executive director of the Board of Fisheries. The joint boards will accept applications for the position before interviewing candidates at the special board meeting in January. The application period is open through Dec. 14 and requires that applicants submit a letter of interest with statements of and personnel management philosophy as well as a resume and references.
Depending on the number of applicants, the joint boards may meet with all the members or may designate a subcommittee of a few members, Haight said. In the past, the number of candidates has varied, from more than 20 to just five or six, he said.
The position is notoriously contentious and different from the process for other commissioners, who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. ADFG and Education Department commissioner candidates are selected by their respective boards before they can be appointed by the governor to be approved by the Legislature. Dunleavy has already announced he intends to retain current Education Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson.
Former Gov. Sean Parnell nominated Cora Campbell to lead the department in 2010, and her name was ultimately forwarded to him after interviewing with the joint boards. The same was the case for former Gov. Bill Walker’s choice of Sam Cotten, who was likewise interviewed by the joint boards and deemed a qualified choice.
Only one other candidate applied for the position in both cases after the governors made their preferences known.
Defined by statute, the commissioner should be “a qualified executive with knowledge of the requirements for protection, management, conservation, and restoration of the fish and game resources of the state. The commissioner is the principal executive officer of the department, whose mission is to protect, maintain, and improve the fish and game resources of the state, and manage their use and development in the best interest of the economy and the well-being of the people of the state, consistent with the sustained yield principle.”
Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected].