Joe Balash, the former chief of staff for Sen. Dan Sullivan and former Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources under Gov. Sean Parnell, was handily confirmed today by the Senate in his new role as the Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
Balash crowded into his old office in Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Hart Building suites, joined by friends from Alaska that included Mark Hanley and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Chief of Staff Michael Pawlowski, as well as Julie Fate-Sullivan, the wife of Sen. Sullivan, and other well-wishers.
The small band of Alaskans watched the debate over Balash’s nomination, which took the better part of an hour, due to Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington State using the time to object. And then came the roll-call vote, where Balash was confirmed with 61 yes votes, with 38 no votes.
Sen. Al Franken, who spoke for 45 minutes today about his own self-induced problems, did not vote.
There were plenty of congratulations and hands to shake when it was all done. It was a happy day for someone who has waited for months for a confirmation vote.
But then Balash did something even more important.
He headed home to his family and celebrated his oldest child’s 16th birthday. His wife baked an apple pie, and the family had dinner and precious time together. Sixteen years ago is when he became a father — a day when he was congratulated and shaking hands with many over the important moment when his daughter was born.
Balash is a native of North Pole, Alaska and has more than 19 years of experience in land and natural resource management.
As the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, Balash oversees the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
He heads the Department of the Interior’s management of all federal lands and waters, and their associated mineral and non-mineral resources, as well as the appropriate regulation of surface coal mining.
But first and foremost, he’s a dad.