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Alaska governor names new leader for transportation agency

·2 min read

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named a long-time state transportation department employee as his pick to lead the department.

Ryan Anderson replaces John MacKinnon, who had served as commissioner since the start of Dunleavy's term in late 2018. Dunleavy's office said Anderson has been with the department for 20 years and most recently served as its northern region director.

MacKinnon's last day was Friday, department spokesperson Andy Mills said Tuesday.

Anderson told the Anchorage Daily News he had been asked if he would be interested in the job and accepted after talking with his family.

Anderson's appointment is subject to legislative approval. It was announced late Friday afternoon.

Dunleavy has yet to name a permanent pick to lead the Department of Administration following Kelly Tshibaka's resignation in March. All other department heads have been confirmed by lawmakers.

MacKinnon said several factors were at play in his departure.

He said he will turn 70 next year and doesn't see his mother or grandchildren as often as he would like. He said he also hasn't been able to spend as much time as he would like working on a retirement home that he is building.

He said he “needed to get busy” if he was going to meet a target date for moving in.

MacKinnon told The Associated Press on Tuesday that when he took the job, “I think I said I'll take it for two years.”

In an email to staff last Friday sent shortly before the statement from Dunleavy's office, MacKinnon said he had been “telling everyone” his plan was to retire in 15 months, at the end of Dunleavy's term, but that Friday was his last day.

He wrote that he leaves the department “quite happy to have more time to devote to these endeavors and with a peace of mind that so many professionals I have had the privilege to work with will carry on the important mission” of the department.

MacKinnon’s wife, former Republican state Sen. Anna MacKinnon, leads the state Permanent Fund Dividend Division.

Anderson lives in Fairbanks and plans to work from there as commissioner. He said he wants to focus on employee health and public safety during the pandemic and has been following debates in Congress about the infrastructure package.

He cited as the department’s biggest ongoing issue the Cooper Landing bypass on the Kenai Peninsula, which is aimed at easing congestion on the Sterling Highway.

Anderson also said he plans to learn more about the state ferry system, a major issue for residents in southeast Alaska and areas such as Kodiak.

The Associated Press

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