Agency supporting Alaska’s rural development has new interim leader

The island village of Kivalina as seen from Air Force One, during President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska, in 2015. Threatened by rising sea levels, this small Indigenous community is among those directly concerned by the Denali Commission’s work. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Former state senator John Torgerson has been appointed to run the Denali Commission while a search is underway for the organization’s next leader.

Torgerson, reached by phone at his homestead in Kasilof, says he expects to be in the job for a few months and says he’s not interested in having the job on a more permanent basis.

Torgerson, 70, was elected to the state Senate in 1994 as a Republican. He was chairman of the Resources Committee during pitched battles over subsistence. Torgerson later served as a Deputy Commissioner of Transportation and chaired a redistricting board.

Nominees for four-year term

Alaska’s congressional delegation requested the interim appointment and recommended Torgerson for it. U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, along with Congressman Don Young, said in a letter last week that they were close to finalizing their list of nominees to be the federal co-chair for the next four-year term.

The federal co-chair is the person in charge of day-to-day operations for the Denali Commission and is the only person who can authorize spending.

The final selection will be up to the U.S. Commerce secretary.

The Denali Commission was created in 1998 to fund infrastructure projects in rural Alaska, primarily with federal money. The Trump administration has proposed eliminating it but Congress this year increased its budget to $30 million.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Feds announce funding to tackle climate change in Inuit region of Atlantic Canada, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland’s roads crumble after worst thaw in 20 years, YLE News

Norway: As Arctic weather dramatically changes, world meteorologists take on more joint forecasting, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: On thin ice, North Pole camp folds after only 12 days, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Climate change hinders residential constructions in Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: Arctic fishing agreement – When climate change drives diplomacy, Cryopolitics Blog

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

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