Head of Alaska alcohol board steps down

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The head of the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is resigning after helping move the department under the control of the state’s Commerce department instead of Public Safety.

Shirley Cote’s resignation is effective Friday, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://is.gd/DTxGlU).

Cote said she is stepping down to become a publicist for her daughter, who is an author and an illustrator.

Cote was to have retired as director in July, according to her resignation memo sent May 7 to Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell. Cote said she doesn’t know if she would have left had the department not undergone recent oversight changes to the business-oriented Department of Commerce.

Cote opposed the shift, approved by the Legislature in 2012. She said while alcohol is legal, it needs to be controlled. That message was stronger while the board was under the Department of Public Safety.

“The same reason that the industry doesn’t want to be there (under the Public Safety Department) would be the same reasons that I think we ought to be there,” Cote said. “Alcohol is a dangerous product that is a legal product, but it needs to be controlled. I think that message was probably stronger in public safety than it is in commerce.”

The board would also be charged with overseeing marijuana regulation if voters approve a ballot initiative in November making the recreational use of weed legal for adults.

The director works with a five-member board, which can give liquor licenses or take them away.

Board chairman Robert Klein has submitted his resume to Bell to replace Cote, a spokeswoman for Gov. Sean Parnell said.

Klein is a consultant for the liquor industry and sits on the board of directors for the Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailer’s Association, the liquor lobby.

The lobbying group claimed victory in getting the oversight for the board switched to Commerce.

“This was a major accomplishment to get it through the Legislature,” board chairman Darwin Biwer wrote in the group’s 2012 annual report. “It very nearly didn’t happen.”

Cote testified against moving oversight from the Department of Public Safety.

She told the Daily News the impact of the change remains to be seen.

“There’s just a different focus and that’s exactly what the industry wanted … for there to be more focus on the commerce side of the industry and to raise them up. So they wouldn’t feel as if they were being treated as criminals,” she said.

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