Gov. Bill Walker’s cabinet is finally whole again.
Walker introduced Anchorage attorney Jahna Lindemuth as Alaska’s new attorney general at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Lindemuth replaces former Attorney General Craig Richards who resigned abruptly June 23 citing personal reasons.
Walker said he was “struck” by her “passion for Alaska.” He referenced more than 950 hours of pro bono work she did in 2015 representing a victim of domestic violence and a wrongly convicted defendant in the very public “Fairbanks Four” case.
“Everything she’s been involved in in her professional life she’s risen to the top,” Walker said of Lindemuth.
Head of the Anchorage office of the international firm Dorsey and Whitney, Lindemuth has represented several Alaska Native regional corporations and ConocoPhillips Alaska in both state and federal court, according to the governor’s office.
Acting Attorney General Jim Cantor will remain in that position until Lindemuth takes over the permanent position as Alaska’s top lawyer in early August.
She will be the second woman to serve as attorney general of Alaska.
Lindemuth conceded she will face “a steep learning curve” in transitioning from private practice to public service, but said she is confident the attorneys within the Department of Law will help make that switch easier.
“Keeping in mind that there are real people behind the decisions that we make (as state attorneys) is important,” she said at the press briefing.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said in a formal statement that she is pleased with Lindemuth’s appointment.
“(Lindemuth) brings years of Alaska experience to bear on the legal challenges facing our great state,” McGuire said. “With the Alaska LNG Project, Corrections reforms, arctic development and tribal sovereignty questions facing our state, I am confident Jahna Lindemuth will work for the best interests of all Alaskans.”
Tuesday as also the first time Alaskans heard directly from new Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andy Mack, who is taking over for acting DNR Commissioner Marty Rutherford, who is stepping down June 30. His appointment was also announced June 23.
Walker said Mack has served as a behind-the-scenes consultant on oil and gas issues to the administration and has accompanied the governor in several meetings with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
“I see an opportunity to play a little more offense than we have in the past” in relation to the state’s interaction with federal agencies regarding oil and gas development issues, Walker said.
The governor has said repeatedly that he intends to continue pushing for exploration and development of oil resources in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a goal that is the opposite of the Obama administration’s view of the refuge.
Mack said the move from his current position as a director for the Anchorage-based private equity firm Pt Capital to the head of DNR should not be an issue given both positions are tasked with bringing more investment into the state.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am to take this position the governor has offered me,” Mack said.
Elwood Brehmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.