Gov. Bill Walker has appointed former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Hollis French to the state’s three-member Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC).

“AOGCC plays an integral role in the state’s natural resource development efforts, and Hollis’ experience in Alaska’s oil industry will make him a valuable addition to the commission,” said Walker in a prepared statement Wednesday morning.

The commission is responsible for ensuring the maximum recovery of Alaska’s oil and gas, and that wells are safely drilled and produced. The seat French will fill has been vacant since March 2015, which the two acting members say has stretched them thin.

“Every decision we make requires a quorum, and that’s two, so even when we’re on vacation we’re spending hours every day reviewing drilling permits,” said Cathy Foerster, chair of the commission. She added that she and the other member had been forced to conduct official business while planning their parents’ funerals.

French served as an Alaska state senator from 2003 to 2015. He ran for governor in 2010, losing in the primary election to Anchorage mayor, Ethan Berkowitz. In 2014, French ran for lieutenant governor but later stepped aside to make room for the Walker-Mallott ticket.

But before his time in the Legislature, French had a long history with the oil industry in Alaska. According to Walker’s release, his North Slope career started in 1979 with Shell, where he worked his way up to a production operator. In 1984, French went to work for ARCO as a production operator and was promoted to lead operator.

“Mr. French will bring 13 years of hands-on oil field experience to the job,” Walker said.

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