Soldotna resident Jim Cockrell was named the new commissioner for the state Department of Public Safety.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the appointment in Kenai on Tuesday. Cockrell replaces Amanda Price, who resigned in February, citing in part disagreements with the governor over the role of the department in rural communities.
Cockrell previously headed the Division of Wildlife Troopers and the Alaska State Troopers. He retired from that role in 2017.
“The department’s focus is always going to be the people of the state, rural Alaska," Cockrell said. "Trying to reduce the amount of sexual assaults, domestic violence and human trafficking. Those are always on the front part. See where our VPSO program is, that’s key to the success of the Alaska State Troopers in rural Alaska.”
VPSO is the Village Public Safety Officer Program, funded through DPS, which specifically serves communities in rural Alaska.
Cockrell was also previously a site security supervisor at the Marathon refinery in Nikiski.
“I think, on the Kenai, one of the things I'd like to see is a little bit more support for our fisheries side, especially during the dip-net season," he said. "Not only for traffic up and down the highway, focus on that, but also focus on the folks that are coming down here and abusing the resources.”
Dunleavy said he plans on expanding the trooper presence in Alaska and hiring more officers, though he didn’t mention a funding mechanism.
He also said he’s working to ensure continued funding for the Silvertip Maintenance Station, on the Seward Highway. His administration closed the station last winter and then reopened it following mounting pressure from a coalition of advocates and Soldotna Sen. Peter Micciche.
He said station costs will be covered by CARES funding through 2024. After that, those costs will have to come out of the state’s general fund, Dunleavy said.
Cockrell’s appointment is pending approval from both houses of the Legislature.