ONE THIRD OF GOVERNOR’S CABINET HAS QUIT
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has hired Mark Wiggin as his new DNR deputy commissioner, starting Sept. 19.
“Wiggin, of Anchorage, brings to DNR 36 years of oil field experience including 33 years in the Alaska oil field. He was a lead start-up engineer for the Alpine and Milne Point oil fields and during his three decades in Alaska, Wiggin served in engineering, operations, exploration, and project management roles for a number of high-profile developments including Lisburne, Alpine, Nikaitchuq, and most recently, Mustang,” according to the governor’s press release.
Until the end of this week, Wiggin is the engineering and development manager for Brooks Range Petroleum, where he has been since 2012.
A registered Democrat and active in state Alaska Democratic Party politics, he joins the governor’s team halfway through Walker’s term, and is replacing Marty Rutherford, who left in June.
Wiggin gave $2,000 in contributions to Mark Begich’s 2014 Senate bid, and is a regular donor to the Alaska Democratic Party and ActBlue, a political action group that allows donors to funnel money to their specific candidates and liberal causes.
GOVERNOR STACKING UP WITH HARD-CORE DEMOCRATS
In addition to his large donations to Begich, Wiggin has made nice-sized contributions to a whole list of Democrats that include Eric Croft, Forrest Dunbar, Matt Claman, Tom Begich, Harriet Drummond, Ethan Berkowitz, Hollis French, Clare Ross, Harry Crawford Jr., Nick Moe, Paul Honeman, Starr Marsett, and Governor Bill Walker. He is a well-known go-to person for hosting Democrat candidate fundraisers.
Gov. Walker has endured the resignations of one-third of his cabinet in his first 18 months in office, losing his originally chosen attorney general (his law partner whom he hired back as a contractor), his commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, Education commissioner, Public Safety commissioner and Corrections commissioner. He also forced out and replaced the president of the Alaska Gasline Development Authority, and the vice president of AGDC resigned last month.
Governor Walker recently hired another hard-core Democrat — Hollis French, former senator and candidate for offices such as governor and lieutenant governor — as a commissioner from the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
BROOKS RANGE – HOPING FOR THOSE TAX CREDITS
Brooks Range Petroleum, the company from which Wiggin hails, is a beneficiary of the tax credits the state has promised the small oil and gas explorers in recent years. The governor’s refusal to make good on the tax credits has burdened companies like Brooks Range, whose business models depended on the credits. Some observers are speculating that Wiggin is leaving because the company needs to downsize in the current difficult business environment.
Brooks Range has a discovery on the North Slope, but may not be in a position to develop it under the current regime of Bill Walker.