A day ahead of a recall movement, Alaska's governor has announced high-level staffing changes.

Ben Stevens is Gov. Mike Dunelavy’s new chief of staff, replacing Tuckerman Babcock, who becomes the governor's senior policy advisor for strategic affairs, his administration announced Wednesday.

Stevens, a former Senate president, had been doing most of the recent negotiations with the Legislature during the second special session.

“I’m honored that the Governor would ask me to serve as his Chief of Staff,” Stevens said in a prepared statement. “I appreciate the leadership Tuckerman has shown since the transition and I look forward to continue working with him as we move the Governor’s agenda forward.”

Babcock was among Dunleavy’s first appointments, shortly after defeating Mark Begich last November. Babcock said in a prepared statement that he requested the change.

“I’m excited to serve as Senior Policy Advisor for Strategic Affairs [...] This will be a smooth internal transition," he said in the statement. "I have enjoyed working with Ben these past eight months and know he is more than qualified to serve as Chief of Staff to Governor Dunleavy.”

According to Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow, Stevens work as special advisory covered areas including public safety, legislative affairs and transportation such as the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Shuckerow said Babcock will now focus on “strategic affairs,” that include areas associated with the Legislature, communications, policy, plus other tasks.

Babcock will be paid $160,000 annually; Stevens will make $175,000.

The changes were announced Wednesday in a cabinet meeting. The transition begins immediately.

Meanwhile, groups statewide are prepping to begin collecting signatures Thursday toward recalling Dunleavy. The group's website, recalldunleavy.org, launched Wednesday.

The announcement also comes one day after a federal judge ruled that a January suit against Dunleavy and Babcock over the firing of three former state employees can proceed.

Federal Judge John Sedwick on Tuesday ruled at this stage of the suit, he does not believe the two are immune to the lawsuit.

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