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New state legislators select their chiefs of staff

Andrew Kitchenman
KTOO and Alaska Public Media

Konrad Jackson is no stranger in the Alaska State Capitol.

“Our inside joke in the building is, it’s helpful to know where the bathrooms are,” he said.

Jackson is new as chief of staff for Republican Sen.-elect Jesse Bjorkman, but this is his fourth stint in a legislative office. He served as Sen. Peter Micciche’s right-hand-man, and worked in the offices of Republican Rep. Kurt Olson and Republican Sen. Natasha von Imhof.

“I enjoy the people, and the work, and the challenge,” he said.

Jackson is from Kenai, and got to know Bjorkman during his campaign. He said his priority in this new role is to support Bjorkman’s agenda and be a resource to the people of Senate District D.

Jackson said it’ll be interesting to switch from serving the Senate president — a role Micciche held since 2021 — to a rookie legislator.

“It’s going to be a different pace in the office — not to say we won’t be busy,” he said.

Under Micciche, Jackson dealt with administrative tasks like hiring. Now, he’s looking forward to helping Bjorkman get the lay of the land in Juneau and set up his office.

“I think he’s going to make an excellent senator,” Jackson said. “But he’s also just a good guy, interested in serving his community.”

Jackson will be joined in Bjorkman’s office by Laura Achee, who worked as a public information officer for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

In the state House, Republican Rep.-elect Justin Ruffridge has Bud Sexton as his chief of staff. Sexton worked for a member of California’s Legislature and in government relations for a healthcare organization. He’s also a paramedic, firefighter and former manager at the Kenai Peninsula Office of Emergency Management.

“It boils down to a community-minded, servant-type mentality, and handling complex issues in different types of situations,” Sexton said. “And that’s a lot of what political work is about.”

Sexton and Ruffridge got to know each other during the Covid-19 pandemic, when Sexton worked in emergency management and Ruffridge worked on the vaccination effort through Soldotna Professional Pharmacy, which he co-owns.

“We had a striking number of similarities, and when he was putting together his staff for Juneau, he reached out, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that we had such a great working relationship that we could accomplish a lot of really wonderful things for the Kenai Peninsula residents,” he said.

Sexton said his work will become more clear once Ruffridge receives committee assignments. So far, his time in Juneau has been filled with meetings and getting acquainted with the resources available for staff in the state Capitol.

“This role is really, ‘What can we do to look after the interests, those things that are important to our constituents?’” he said. “We’ve got our sleeves rolled up and it’s a lot of work, but it’s important work.”

Sexton will work alongside another Kenai Peninsula resident in Ruffridge’s office, Braeden Garrett, who will oversee constituent services.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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