Alaskan Governor Dunleavy’s Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs leaves, tribal chiefs and fishermen wonder why

Former Alaskan Gov. Mike Dunleavy Advisor John Moller, center, questions Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer at a forum in Juneau. (Jacob Resneck / Alaska Coast)

Republican Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s longtime rural affairs adviser John Moller has quit his job.

Moller was a trusted advisor to Dunleavy, having co-chaired his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and his portfolio included work with the fishing industry and Alaska Native issues.

Moller’s departure was first reported by the Alaska Landmine, a political blog.

Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner confirmed Moller no longer worked in the governor’s office, but would not say whether he resigned or been fired. Moller did not respond to requests for comment.

Moller’s surprise departure reverberated in Alaskan political circles on Tuesday.

“We treat the news like everyone else, but he had become a trusted state partner,” said Nicole Borromeo, general counsel and executive vice president of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Related: As recall efforts loom, can Governor Dunleavy ease tensions with Alaska Native groups?

Moller, who lives in Juneau, has a long history in Alaskan politics, native issues, and fisheries. He is originally from Alaska and a shareholder in two Native Alaskan corporations – The Aleut Corp. and Ounashka Corp. –and has commercial fishing licenses for Southeast Alaska shrimp, crab and salmon, according to a state database.

Prior to working for Dunleavy, Moller was rural affairs adviser to Sean Parnell, the former Republican governor, then joined Parnell in a consulting firm.

People who worked with Moller described him as approachable and an important intermediary to the governor’s office who could help elevate their issues and problems.

“We don’t always agree with the administration, but it has always been easy to work with Johnny,” said Matt Alward, president of United Alaskan Fishermen. “If he had a different job from ours, he clearly would. But that has not affected our ability to work together.

Moller’s position was important to the fishing industry, and UFA members are hopeful that he will be replaced, Alward added. Turner wouldn’t say if the governor intends to fill Moller’s post, although Dunleavy has another special assistant, Bill Thomas, with experience working on Alaskan Native and fishing issues.

Borromeo, of the Alaska Native Federation, said Moller was instrumental in reviving state-tribal negotiations on an agreement for the tribes to shoulder some of the state’s responsibilities in matters child protection.

The deal had been negotiated between the tribes and the administration of the previous independent governor Bill Walker. But Dunleavy’s administration had suspended negotiations on the deal when he took office.

“John was really good at bringing us into the room with Governor Dunleavy from the start, for face-to-face meetings, to have these conversations,” Borromeo said.

Moller had also been an important link between the state and tribal health organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Borromeo added.

“John has always been the type to pick up the phone and listen, which is an invaluable relationship to have,” she said. “That doesn’t mean we agreed with him on all points. But what I will say is that he was always available to listen and take a meeting.

About Patricia Kilgore

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