Jim Whitaker steps aside during shakeup



screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-4-28-04-pmThe governor’s new chief of staff is a well-known Alaska political figure: Scott Kendall, formerly associated with the Black Rock Group, a political consulting firm out of Washington, D.C. with an extensive portfolio of work in Alaska.

Black Rock Group was most recently associated with Sen.Lisa Murkowski’s re-election campaign. Kendall, Alaska’s managing director for Black Rock, was embedded in the Murkowski campaign.

Jim Whitaker, who came in with the Walker Administration as chief of staff, will continue on in a project management role, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The difference between the two men’s styles is worth noting: Whitaker, who has been an ally of Walker’s since the old Alaska Gasline Port Authority days, has few natural friends in either the liberal or conservative camp. Kendall, however, is respected by both sides.

“He has the right mindset, the right intelligence, and right open door policy to be successful in what is going to be a difficult road ahead for Governor Walker for the next two years,” said a source close to Kendall.

Kendall started work today and was trailing the governor as he entered the ballroom at the Dena’ina Center, where the governor spoke to the Resource Development Council.

Kendall said he took the job “for the good of the state,” he told Must Read Alaska. He is  related through marriage to high-profile Democrat Luke Hopkins. Hopkins, former mayor of Fairbanks, just lost a bid for the Alaska Senate after running a bloody campaign against incumbent Sen. John Coghill.

An Anchorage attorney, Kendall also worked on the election campaign of Walker in 2014, helping Walker’s family monitor the vote count after the election. The Walker team had no legal counsel at the time, and Kendall filled in because he had vote counting experience from 2010. His relationship with Walker is almost familial, according to those who know him.

Kendall was formerly with the law offices of Holmes, Weddle & Barcott.