By Tess Williams
Maurice “Mo” Hughes made history Wednesday when he was promoted to the position of Alaska State Troopers colonel, becoming the first Black person to hold that rank.
Hughes will replace Bryan Barlow, who was promoted to deputy commissioner in the same ceremony. Barlow will replace Leon Morgan, who is retiring from the post.
Both appointments become effective Sept. 1, state officials say.
Hughes served with Alaska Department of Public Safety for more than 30 years, most recently as commander of the troopers detachment that covers Southeast Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula.
In a brief speech Wednesday, he said he was honored and humbled by the appointment and acknowledged two “up and coming” officers as well as other Black leaders in the department’s history: Ed Rhodes, a retired lieutenant who in 1966 became Alaska’s first Black trooper; Alaska State Defense Force Brig. Gen. Simon Brown, a retired trooper who served as the agency’s first Black captain; and Capt. Tony April, who serves as commander of a detachment that includes much of Mat-Su.
With his appointment Wednesday, Hughes rises to the highest position held by a Black person within the agency.
Barlow, who has been with the department for about 23 years and most recently served as colonel, will become deputy commissioner as Morgan retires after about 23 years with the department.
Commissioner James Cockrell said the troopers have added 40 new positions and said he does not anticipate any major changes in the department because of the promotions.
The ceremony, attended by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, was held in the governor’s office in the Atwood Building in Anchorage.
Commanders from around the state attended. Hughes said he asked them to be there after working with them on a regular basis.
“I look forward to them to assist me in the future as I step into this new role,” he said.