Kenneth J. Fisher, a Juneau engineer, begins work on Dec. 1 as the Alaska Department of Transportation’s chief engineer, according to a memo from Commissioner Marc Luiken. The top-level appointment was signed off on by Gov. Bill Walker or his designee, Chief of Staff Scott Kendall.
The well-known political activist, who was an avid Joe Miller for Senate supporter in 2010, was most recently the senior representative to the State of Alaska for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Alaskans may remember him as the EPA’s point person during the armed raid of mining operations in Chicken, Alaska, in August, 2013.
That’s when he found himself a the center of an imbroglio that ensued when the EPA’s overreach seemed to reach epic proportions in Alaska, and when he was in the uncomfortable position of defending the agency.
EPA’s Environmental Crimes Task Force descended on miners in Chicken, with their loaded weapons and bullet-proof clothing that summer.
The EPA said that the heavy hand was called for because Alaska State Troopers had warned them of drug trafficking and human trafficking in that part of the state. Troopers denied that.
During tense meetings that followed in Chicken, Fisher told the group that the EPA was advised of risks to its inspection team. But according to those at the meeting, he was never able to say who specifically had warned the federal agency of any threats. In fact, participants said he was unable to answer many of their questions at all, since he didn’t seem to have known about the raid.
Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident, even though the federal agents stormed the mining claims raid-style, rather than as inspectors with clipboards and water sampling kits. And considering that miners are typically loaded for bear.
Many Alaskans were outraged by the raid, and then-Gov. Sean Parnell flew to Chicken to get information directly from locals who witnessed the incident.
At the time, Fisher was the Alaska Deputy Director for the EPA.
Fisher was also appointed to the University of Alaska Board of Regents by Gov. Sarah Palin in 2009. His official bio says he has 26 years of professional engineering, program management, and senior legislative experience with broad federal, state, tribal, and international background. He has worked within both the legislative and executive branches of government.
A graduate of Michigan Technological University with a Bachelor of Science in engineering, he also completed a legislative fellowship with the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.
Carolyn Morehouse, P.E. has been acting chief engineer since summer. From May 2016 through August 2017, Lance Mearig, P.E. held the position, but moved into the role of the new Southcoast Region director.