Jacob Resneck, KMXT – Kodiak
A new leadership team is taking shape at Fish and Game. Acting Commissioner Cora Campbell announced late Wednesday two appointments. They are: Craig Fleener as deputy commissioner and Kelly Hepler as assistant commissioner.
Her office also confirmed that commercial fisheries deputy director Sue Aspelund will serve as acting director of that department until a permanent choice is made. That post had been left vacant following the retirement of commercial fisheries director John Hilsinger who had decided to follow departing Commissioner Denby Lloyd.
Gordy Williams, a special assistant in the commissioner’s office, says the appointments come during a time for the agency that’s seen some high-level turnover.
Last month, Governor Sean Parnell tapped his fisheries aide Cora Campbell to serve as Fish and Game commissioner. In recent days he’s publicly stated she’s his top choice for the job in the long-term. He also rejected criticism that the 31-year-old lacks managerial experience to steer an agency with a $200 million budget.
The leadership team named Wednesday isn’t on an interim or acting basis but could signal she’s settling into the job. Williams didn’t dispute this.
Campbell’s choice for deputy commissioner, Craig Fleener, joined the agency in 2008 as director of the subsistence division. He’s a trained biologist with a background that includes work with tribal governments.
Her choice for assistant commissioner, Kelly Hepler, has a longer history with Fish and Game, joining the state agency in 1979 as a fisheries biologist. He’s since served as the director of the sport fish division and had been a special assistant in the commissioner’s office in the past. He also chairs the National Fish Habitat Board.
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