THE BURROWING BEGINS FROM THE TOP
Grace Jang, the governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, will be flying to Juneau this week, Must Read Alaska has learned, in order to embed Walker’s political employees into the classified, nonpolitical positions open in State government.
With just six weeks to go until nearly all political appointees lose their jobs on Dec. 3, Jang will be helping Walker Administration political appointees stay on. It’s called burrowing.
They may have to accept less pay and less prestige, but a paycheck is a paycheck, and many of them will be covered by union contracts, if they can find a spot. The hiring freeze hasn’t been enforced since the day it was announced in 2016.
A classified position, however, has a process, with personnel rules, and most of those jobs take time to fill.
If Jang farms someone out to an agency in an exempt position, that usually only lasts for a while.
If Walker’s functionaries try to game the system and shove people into jobs for which they are not qualified, they may bump up against disgruntled personnel managers who report them.
But they have two extra weeks to try to help these workers keep jobs that they need to pay rent, feed their families, and make their car payments. There are 42 days left until the new administration takes over.
The maneuvering is fairly easy to detect in this day and age. Bruce Botelho, who provided transition services for the Walker Administration in 2014-2015, was able to eradicate nearly every exempt employee who had ever been near a Republican.
Not counting the support staff, about 25-35 people will need to find new work. Including the regional offices, the turnover could be as high as 60.
A staff meeting for the Governor’s Office is scheduled for Friday to discuss re-jobbing.
For those in Juneau, finding other employment is difficult because it’s a town with one major employer — the State of Alaska. But the exempt employees are spread across the state in Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks, and also in Washington, D.C.
If Mark Begich is elected, many of those workers may remain, although they may be shuffled to new jobs.
For example, Leslie Ridle, commissioner of the Department of Administration, is a close ally of Begich; she was his chief of staff when he was a senator.
Within hours of Gov. Walker announcing on Friday that he was not running for re-election, Ridle changed her Facebook profile picture to include a pitch for Begich, and likely she has been in conversation with him about a new role:
In addition, Must Read Alaska has learned that the Governor’s Office staff and exempt employees in departments will be traveling to rural Alaska extensively over the next two weeks and will use the travel time to campaign for Begich on or off state time.
Must Read Alaska will be pulling travel records to monitor how state dollars are being spent in the coming weeks.