The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Ron Holmstrom
For the Star 

New governor sends poignant message to Valdez

Bill Walker and Mallott sworn in to office in Juneau Monday after historic election


Valdez Star photo

Gov. Bill Walker visited Valdez last Wednesday to resign his position as city attorney in the final days before his Dec. 1 inauguration.

Bill Walker was sworn in as governor Monday, bringing smiles – and sometimes tears – to faces in Valdez.

Walker, a lifelong Alaskans, came of age in Valdez in the 1960s and has kept close ties to the community ever since. He was the town's mayor at the tender age of 27, and after attending law school, has acted as its municipal attorney.

"It's a historic moment here," Walker said Wednesday, when he addressed the Valdez City Council in a special meeting where he acted as city attorney for the last time. "My last..."

He did not complete the sentence.

The special meeting was called to order specifically to sever the legal ties between Walker, the attorney, and Walker, who was still governor-elect.

"I need to fire myself in the meantime," he joked. "This is a necessary step."

Walker's election was historic indeed.

Never before has an independent team in Alaska won the two top seats of government. With Byron Mallott as Lieutenant Governor, the two formed a "unity ticket" after Mallott dropped his bid for the governor's seat under the Democratic ticket to run as Walker's running mate as independents.

This also necessitated that Hollis French withdraw his candidacy for Lt. Governor for the Democrats and that Craig Fleener withdraw from the Walker ticket for the same post.

"I told Bill, ''ll do that,'" Fleener said during a three day transition conference the Unity Ticket in late November, "'but you better win!'"

The forum was another historic first. Not only was it unique in that it was open to the public, this gathering included representatives from every part of Alaska and across the entire political spectrum.

The transition team was comprised of 246 Alaskans from 43 different Alaskan communities. Among the participants were educators, Alaska Native leaders, doctors, mayors, fishermen, scientists, business owners, natural resource specialists, former commissioners and economic analysts. A comprehensive summary of the groups' findings will be compiled in the coming days.

"As I was listening, I thought to myself, 'the executive article of our constitution about the governor was written about Bill Walker," Victor Fischer, a delegate of Alaska Constitutional Convention, said.

Last Friday, Walker sent a special message to Valdez from his Anchorage office.

"I just can't thank them enough for their support," he said. "Valdez has always been referred to as sort of the mother ship of our campaign and we'd always leave there so inspired and, per capita, they stood tall in this election and we sure appreciated that."

Valdez Star photo

Bill Walker, right, shared a moment Wednesday with old friend Mike Wells, of the Valdez City Council.

As often happens, Walker reflected on his youth in Valdez.

"You know, in the old town I was one of the crossing guards in elementary school and I was very proud to put on my little orange vest and actually now, they do it with adults, rather than putting the students out there as targets," he said with a laugh. "I had the opportunity to be the Student Body President when I was only a junior, which was different because it is usually a senior that does that."

While looking at the past, he also reflected on the future.

"I was proud to be a Buccaneer, and city council member, mayor, city attorney, business owner," he said. "It's been a lot of good memories in Valdez and I look forward to returning as governor."


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