Dunleavy administration pick for $94,000-a-year labor relations manager comes without labor relations experience

The State Office Building in Juneau houses the Division of Personnel and Labor Relations, where Jared Goecker is the new labor relations manager. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)

A new high-level appointee in Governor Mike Dunleavy’s administration has been hired into a $94,000-a-year-job in spite of his relative youth and lack of experience.

Jared Goecker, whose Facebook page lists his age as 25, started as the state’s labor relations manager last month – a job that includes helping to supervise a group of negotiators who hammer out contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars with Alaska’s public sector unions.

Goecker’s experience includes two-and-a-half years working for real estate company Weidner Apartment Homes as a manager in training, assistant community director and community director, according to his LinkedIn profile. He’s also worked in Republican Party politics, helping with Dunleavy’s campaign and with Mike Pence’s 2016 gubernatorial bid in Indiana before Donald Trump picked Pence as his running mate.

Goecker previously worked for Tuckerman Babcock, Dunleavy’s chief of staff and a former Alaska GOP chairman. (Photo: Josh Walton)

Most recently, Goecker worked as executive assistant to Tuckerman Babcock, Dunleavy’s chief of staff. Babcock chaired the Alaska Republican Party until Dunleavy was elected.

Goecker didn’t respond to requests for comment. But Kate Sheehan, Goecker’s boss and the director of the Division of Personnel and Labor Relations, said she interviewed several candidates for the job and that Goecker was the best fit. The hiring decision was hers, and it wasn’t directed by the governor’s office, she said.

“Jared is a real go-getter – I know it’s kind of a cheesy thing to say,” Sheehan said, adding: “He has a skill set that I thought would be a good fit.”

The description for Goecker’s job lists “thorough knowledge of practices and principles of labor contract administration, labor contract negotiations, grievance handling and arbitration processes” as among the desired knowledge and skills. His predecessor, Emily Gaffney, was an attorney, and some of the labor negotiators who work under Goecker have law degrees.

Goecker does not. But Sheehan said his job doesn’t require as much specific subject matter expertise – his responsibilities are more managerial, and include making sure that the positions taken by the division’s negotiators align with the direction handed down by the governor’s office.

Goecker’s hiring was announced to labor officials last month. Several union leaders said they found the decision perplexing, given Goecker’s lack of experience, though most didn’t want to speak publicly about it, saying they expected to be working with him.

Trina Arnold, the Juneau-based regional director of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific – which includes 400 state ferry workers – said Goecker sat at the table during a recent round of contract negotiations.

“We did ask him what his background was, in labor relations, and he said he’d worked in real estate,” Arnold said.

There are no specific minimum requirements for Goecker’s job under state law. His position is defined as “partially exempt,” which also means that it does not have to be advertised on the state’s jobs website, Sheehan said.