Rep. Mary Peltola announced the departure of three key members of her official Washington, D.C. staff, including Senior Policy Advisor Larry Persily, Interim Communications Director Josh Wilson, and her Interim Director of Scheduling and Operations Paula Conru.
Although when she started her career in Congress much was made about how she hired Republicans (Persily is not among those), she is getting a staff of almost-all Democrats. Alex Ortiz of Ketchikan, her chief of staff who served as Congressman Don Young’s final chief of staff, may be the final remaining non-Democrat in her office.
Persily is nonpartisan and a longtime Alaskan, while Josh Wilson worked for Republicans in Congress before taking a job with Otter Public Relations, which led to him earning Peltola as a client shortly after her election. Conru, a longtime Alaskan, was Congressman Young’s scheduler and had worked for Republican Gov. Sean Parnell.
When Peltola first took office, her public relations team heralded how bipartisan she is.
“When Ortiz and Wilson spoke with Roll Call last week (Conru declined to be interviewed), Peltola had more registered Republicans and independents (four) working for her than Democrats (three). ‘Which is kind of incredible,’ Ortiz said. ‘And really speaks to a lot of the amazing qualities that she has,'” Roll Call reported in September.
“Both Ortiz and Wilson described themselves as GOPers who decided to work specifically for Mary Peltola, not Republican reprobates,” the publication reported. Read that story here.
“I think part of it is an Alaska thing and part of it is a practical thing, because I want to achieve for Alaska,” Ortiz told the reporter. “Ultimately, that is far more important to me than party.”
“She said, ‘When I get to DC, I want to be bipartisan.’ That’s a typical — like, everybody says that,” Wilson told the reporter. “But she’s probably the first [Democratic] representative who, when she arrived here, the first thing she did was hire three Republicans.”
Peltola has since hired many D.C. insiders from the left side of the political aisle, including:
Elizabeth Othmer is the new legislative director and counsel. Othmer served as Legislative Counsel for New Mexico Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat. Othmer was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Simone Auger is a new legislative assistant covering natural resources issues. Auger previously worked as legislative assistant for Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Democrat, for whom she was the 2020 Mark O. Hatfield Congressional Fellow for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon.
Logan Basner, who was previously a special assistant to Peltola in Anchorage, has been promoted to a legislative assistant for transportation, infrastructure, and labor issues for the D.C. office. Basner was born and raised in Palmer and was chief of staff to Alaska State Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, a Democrat, and a legislative aide to Rep. Zack Fields, a Democrat. He worked for Alaska Federation of Natives and was Zulkosky’s campaign manager.
Emily Larsen, who was previously a staff assistant for Peltola, has been promoted to a legislative correspondent. Born and raised in Maine, she recently graduated from American University, where she studied justice and law with a concentration in terrorism and security. She interned for Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent; and for Maine Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat.
Lauren Noland was hired away from Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office to be a legislative correspondent. Noland previously worked for the late Congressman Don Young. She was raised in Chugiak and is a U.S. Army veteran.
Bre Klayum joins the office as scheduler and office manager. Klayum previously served as deputy scheduler for Sen. Dan Sullivan. She was born and raised in Eagle River and graduated from Montana State University with bachelor’s degrees in history and political science.
“Ensuring a smooth and seamless transition for Alaskans was my top priority while I served out the remainder of Congressman Don Young’s term,” said Peltola. “Larry, Josh, and Paula were instrumental in helping me establish an office in D.C. and have worked tirelessly for Alaskans over the last several months. All three have a long record of public service and I’m extremely grateful for the time they spent in my office. I wish them all the best as they enter the next chapters of their lives.”