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12/2/14 - New Gov. Bill Walker, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott pledge bipartisan, transparent governance

Cost of energy, Medicaid expansion high prioritues

The mood was celebratory in Juneau yesterday (Dec. 1) during the inauguration ceremony for Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott. Mallott called for unity,  saying Alaskans from all walks of life can rise as one.

Walker said with oil hovering around $70 a barrel, the state is in for some lean times. But, he says, "We live in one of the most resource rich states in the nation, in one of the richest countries in the world. The key to every growing economy is low cost energy," says Walker. "We don't have a resource problem in Alaska, we have a distribution problem."

Walker pledged to expand Medicaid to extend health coverage to 40,000 Alaskans.

Just a few hours later, he appointed Valerie Davidson, Yup'ik, as the Commissioner of Health and Social Services. At her former post with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Davidson served as Chair of the Tribal Technical Advisory Group to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from its start in 2004 to August 2014. Davidson is an enrolled member of the Orutsaramiut Native Council of Bethel.

Walker also named former Democratic legislator Sam Cotten as his acting commissioner of Fish and Game. Cotten has served on the boards of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, the International Pacific Fisheries Commission and Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, among others. He served for 16 years in both chambers of the state Legislature, and was House Majority Leader from 1989 to 1999. He is among those being considered for a permanent commissioner appointment.

And Walker said Marty Rutherford, who held a post in the Department of Natural Resources during Sarah Palin's administration, will be rejoining DNR as a deputy commissioner. Rutherford most recently served as special projects manager for LINC Energy. She has 19 years of state government experience, including her time as DNR Deputy Commissioner in the Palin administration.