Career fair at high school attracts Alaska's first lady as guest
Old friends and new faces greet Donna Walker during Valdez visit last week
Valdez Star photo
First lady Donna Walker reflected on the value of old friendships and the many familiar faces at the meet and greet at the Valdez Senior Center.
First lady Donna Walker spent time with both the young and old on her recent visit to Valdez.
"The initial request was to participate in the career day at Valdez High School," she said in a brief interview Thursday after she attended the event and then shook hands and exchanged hugs with old friends at a meet and greet function at the Valdez Senior Center.
"I talked with the students from Valdez and they've got Kenny Lake and Glennallen students up here as well," she said of the career and job fair.
Donna Walker is well-qualified to advised students and is a seen by many as a great roll model.
The first lady and her husband, Gov. Bill Walker, have had a long partnership in not only their personal lives, but in their careers as well. The two attended law school together, and founded businesses in Valdez as well as a successful law firm.
"The governor and I have had a number of different career emphasizes," she said. "So I was able to talk to them about business. We've founded a number of businesses; about law; about my initial major which was public administration."
As first lady, politics were also a career topic, which also ties in with media and other types of business.
"We ran a couple of political campaigns," she said, "and then also I worked as Alyeska's community service person here for a year, did a lot of media public relations type work with the governor's campaign as well."
Appearances, both public and personal, were in demand.
After making the rounds at VHS and talking with visitors at the Senior Center, Walker was scheduled to visit the staff of Advocates of Victims of Violence, and the Valdez Museum.
"It makes for a full day," she said.
Almost a year and a half into her husband's term as governor, Donna Walker says she has found her stride.
"You know I'm not sure I had a lot of preconceived ideas about what it would be like," she said. "I did have a couple of wonderful conversations with first lady Sandy Parnell. She was very helpful in letting me know if some of the things she worked in and on."
There are no specified duties for the first lady, but hosting official functions in the governor's mansion comes with the territory.
"I had never been to the governors house before I showed up with my suitcases after the inauguration," she said. "It's such a beautiful place so much history in the house. We are really truly honored and privileged to live there."
During her talk with guests at the Senior Center, she said the governor - ever a hands-on guy - fixed a door into the kitchen that has been problematic for other residents of the mansion.
"We are always quick to say it's not our house, it's the peoples house," she said.
And that means a different kind of home economics.
"We are constantly having people over for dinners, receptions, lunches," she said. "I say we are doing more with less. We don't have a lot of elaborate catering you know fancy things, but will have a taco feed."
The first lady said the governor has been utilizing local musicians for entertainment who are happy to play without payment for just for the bragging rights.
"We've made it a fun place to be," she said. "We have groups from all over the state that come in, and of course have the legislators over for a lot of different things, that's been a fun part of it."
Anyone who knows Donna Walker also knows that she cannot be content simply playing hostess.
"So I've taking on the issues," she said. "Bridge builders, volunteerism education..."
The list is long and impressive and also includes heavy duty social ills such as sex trafficking, domestic violence, and children in foster care.
"I'm constantly involved in some aspect of child and family welfare," she said.
And she is putting in the hours to prove it. As is her husband.
"Anybody that knows Gov. Walker knows that he that he is a hard-working man," she said, noting he is a 10,12,14,16 hour work guy.
For her, it's business as usual, only in a different location.
Valdez Star photo
Friends old and new were eager to get their photos taken with Donna Walker, Alaska's first lady, at a meet and greet at the Valdez Senior Center last week.
"That's always been something that's part of our lives and it's not any different," she said. " It certainly hasn't gotten any better but that's fine. Like I say, we feel like we are here for a short while on assigned duty and we're giving it all we've got for as long as we have the opportunity to serve."
Official visits to Valdez are great, but when will the two be able to return to Valdez as a visit home?
"You know, we always look for every opportunity to come to Valdez because you know, as Gov. Walker says, this is like the home ship, and it's hard for me to stand in front of a group of Valdez people - as it is for him - and you look out in the crowd and you see so many parts of your life and people who have been instrumental at different times and seasons of your life," she said. "So it really is like coming home and we are constantly looking for opportunities to get down here. Hopefully when the session gets out we'll be seeing him a little bit more too."
After all, it is fishing season.