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

By Tony Gorman
Valdez Star 

Gov. Walker and first lady Donna busy last week during visit to Valdez

Fundraiser, dedication and bill signing are just one part of the whirlwind schedule


The governor is not taking anything for granted as he wraps up his first term in office and runs for reelection.

First lady Donna Walker and Bill – as he is known around his hometown - drove to Valdez last Friday after weather forced the cancellation of the morning flight. The two had a number of planned events to attend, including a reelection fundraiser Friday, and bill signing and memorial dedication Saturday.

Walker has been racking up flier miles - across the state and overseas - since the legislative session ended last month. For the first time during his term, the Alaska Legislature did not call a special session and he isn't taking anything for granted.

"It feels really good," he said. "I've never been out of Juneau so much this early."

Walker said was very pleased with what lawmakers were able to accomplish during the session. Going in, he was told that not much would be accomplished due to it being an election year. That's what sparked him to give a stern State of the State Address back in January. Overall, 107 bills were passed in 113 days. That's a dramatic increase from the 32 bills passed within the 203 days in session in 2017. One of those bills was signed Saturday morning at City Hall. HB 3 was sponsored by District 23 Representative Chris Tuck and deals with the rights of employees who are in the National Guard.

Walker felt that his relationships with lawmakers improved during the session.

"If you look at the makeup of some of the most difficult votes they made. The most difficult was absolutely almost evenly bipartisan," Walker said. "It wasn't just all 21 in the House Majority. It was a mix. That to me is a story within itself that they started realizing that they should stop being tough. It should be Alaskans again and stop being partisan politics. So, I was very proud of that."

Walker's stop in Valdez was also an opportunity to campaign for his re-election bid. The Walker-Mallott campaign held a fundraiser Friday. Walker is again running as an independent. That means that he will not be on either ballot in August primaries. Walker said the campaign is going well, but he realizes that there are some who haven't been happy with the way the budget deficit was solved – especially cuts to the PFD.

"We had to make some really tough decisions. We understand that not everyone's happy with every decision we make," Walker said. "When the house is on fire, you got put the fire out. And, that's what we have done. Some ran from it. Some didn't. We stayed there and we're down to a smoldering."

In an attempt to expand existing businesses and create new ones, Walker and a delegation of various Alaska business representatives made a trip to China. Fifty Alaskans made the trip overseas. This week, he will be in Washington, D.C., to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnunchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Walker also spoke Saturday at the Alaska Air National Guardsmen Memorial dedication held at the site of the new boat harbor. For him it meant more than just being governor, and as such, the Alaska Air National Guard Commander-in-the-Chief. Walker's family came to Valdez in his youth to help rebuild the town after it was devasted in the 1964 earthquake.

Tony Gorman photo

Gov. Bill Walker in Valdez Saturday at the dedication of the Celestial Flight Memorial dedication.

He gave praise to Alaska Air National Guard veteran Charles "Chuck" Volanti for his successful efforts to erect the memorial dedicated to guardsmen who died in a plane crash during a humanitarian flight to aid Valdez in the earthquakes's aftermath.

"Chuck Volanti is a soldier who never took off the uniform. He's as much of a soldier such today as when he dispatched those for that ill-fated flight," Walker said. "When I got to know him - I just got to know him for the first time personally last night - I knew that there was something pretty special about him. He had a passion that really stands out."

The memorial honored Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the Kulis Air National Guard 114th ATSM who died on a humanitarian relief mission on April 25, 1964. Alaska Adjutant Maj. General Thomas Patrick Carroll, Maj. James Artin Rowe, Lt. Col. Thomas Earl Norris, Sr., and TSgt. Kenneth Wayne Ayers, Sr. perished when their Fairchild C-123J Provider crashed into the Valdez Harbor.


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