FAIRBANKS — Alaska's fish and game boards narrowed a list of four candidates to one Wednesday morning, choosing Samuel Cotten as their pick for commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game.
Meeting in Juneau and by teleconference, the two boards voted unanimously to endorse Cotten for the job after interviewing him for about an hour. They chose not to interview the other three candidates.
Cotten has been serving as acting commissioner since Gov. Bill Walker took office in December.
By law the governor must fill the Cabinet post from among the list of candidates the fisheries and game boards recommend. The nomination must go to the Legislature for confirmation.
Although the two boards chose not to interview any of the other candidates, one of those candidates had support from the Board of Game members. The Board of Game voted unanimously to give an interview to Roland Maw, a Kenai Peninsula-based fisherman and director of the United Cook Inlet Drift Association.
"He does have considerable background and should be an interesting candidate," said Palmer Board of Game member Pete Probasco, one of three board members who spoke up for Maw.
But Maw didn't have any support from the Board of Fisheries. His application died after that seven-member board voted unanimously to not interview him.
The two other candidates didn't get support from the members of either board. The other two applicants were Zachary Hill, a postdoctoral pharmaceutical researcher in San Francisco, and Matt Moore, the owner of an Anchorage-based medical records company. Board members said neither had the management experience or the fish and game knowledge for the job. A fifth candidate, Greg Woods, withdrew his name before the meeting.
Cotten is a fisheries analyst and former Alaska legislator who served in both chambers in the 1980s and 1990s and as speaker of the House from 1989 to 1990. He was a fisheries consultant for the Aleutians East Borough from 2001 to 2014 and until 2013 served on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, a powerful regulatory body.
Most of the board members said Wednesday they already know Cotten well from his past fisheries and political work.
"Mr. Cotten, I don't know if it's more appropriate to call you Sen. Cotten or Mr. Cotten, you can take your pick. Or, likely knowing you, it would be Sam," said Kantishna River-based based Board of Game member Nate Turner at the start of the interview.
Interior Board of Game members wanted to know Cotten's view on the state's intensive game management policy. The policy directs the state to keep populations of large game animals such as moose and caribou above a target threshold. It directs the state to take action, by creating predator hunts if necessary, when populations fall below a critical level.
Cotten said he supports intensive game management. He also said he would try to work with the federal agencies that manage much of Alaska's wild land, although he said he was concerned by an early meeting with National Park Service representatives.
"I was taken aback when one of the members of that (National Park Service) delegation referred to our intensive management program as game farming," he said. "It was surprising to me that was one of the first things that they talked about. "
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.