Former Dunleavy chief of staff named head of AIDEA

A former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy is taking over as head of an Alaska economic development agency.

Randy Ruaro is becoming executive director of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority starting Jan. 3, replacing Alan Weitzner, who resigned last month, according to a statement from the agency.

The agency’s chief investment officer, Morgan Neff, has served as interim executive director.

Ruaro has a long history in Alaska government. He recently served as the governor’s special assistant for statehood defense, which helps coordinate the state’s action on disputes with the federal government involving control of Alaska lands and waters. He has been chief of staff in the Senate and House Finance committees and served in leadership roles in multiple Republican administrations in Alaska, starting with Gov. Frank Murkowski about two decades ago.

Ruaro takes over a state agency that has often been the target of opposition from environmental groups. It has made a controversial decision to buy federal leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and pursued development of a road to the Ambler mineral district in Northwest Alaska that has faced strong opposition. The agency in November also launched an effort for an independent review of its financial history after a report funded by a conservation group alleged that the agency has a history of poor investments.

Ruaro, who holds a law degree from Willamette University College of Law, has supported many of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s projects, including the Ambler road and the refuge leases, according to the agency’s statement.

“Randy has extensive experience leading departments for the State of Alaska and we look forward to working with him and AIDEA’s talented executive team as we advance economic growth and diversification for Alaskans,” said Dana Pruhs, chair of the agency’s board.

The board consists of five public members who are appointed by the governor to two-year terms, plus two board seats filled by the commissioners of the Alaska Department of Revenue and the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

12/27/2022 - 11:14am