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

Associated Press 

Weather forces change to new Alaska governor's inauguration

Judge who grew up in Valdez administered Mike Dunleavy's oath of office


December 5, 2018

Stanley Wright photo

Mike Dunleavy taking the oath of office in Kotzebue Monday. He was sworn into office by Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman – who grew up in Valdez. He is the son of Julie Roetman and the late Frank Roetman.

Poor weather in a tiny Inupiat Eskimo community on Alaska's western coast forced Monday's inauguration of new Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy to be moved just hours before the ceremony.

Dunleavy had said he and his wife Rose chose to have the ceremony in Noorvik, her hometown, out of respect for her family and because of the fond memories of the years they spent living in rural Alaska.

Dunleavy had even planned to fly into the hub community of Kotzebue and make a 65-mile (105-kilometer) trek by snowmobile to Noorvik.

Plans began to fall apart after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Anchorage on Friday, causing widespread damage to roads and highways in Alaska's largest city and surrounding areas.

Dunleavy canceled the snowmobile trip so he could focus on earthquake relief efforts and instead intended to fly straight to Noorvik on Monday from Anchorage on a chartered flight.

But plans had to be changed again when poor visibility at the small airport in Noorvik prompted Dunleavy's plane to be diverted to Kotzebue, where supporters, unable to fly into Noorvik, were gathered, said Sarah Erkmann Ward, a spokeswoman for the transition team.

Dunleavy was sworn in at a school in Kotzebue.

Valdez Star file photo

Gov. Bill Walker in Valdez last July at the memorial honoring Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the Kulis Air National Guard 114th ATSM who died on a humanitarian relief mission to Valdez on April 25, 1964, after the Great Earthquake.

It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for an Alaska governor to be sworn in outside the capital city of Juneau, though Dunleavy's ceremony was the first to take place above the Arctic Circle.

Under the state constitution, a governor's term begins at noon on the first Monday in December.

Dunleavy won office by defeating Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in November.

Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, had dropped his re-election bid in October, days after his lieutenant governor resigned. Walker said he could not win a three-way race and offered qualified support for Begich.

Dunleavy said he had been in close contact with Walker about the response to the earthquake. Walker said Friday he did not expect the recovery to be affected by the transition in administrations.

Walker said Sunday he and Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson would not attend the swearing in and instead would stay in Anchorage to help with reopening state buildings. Walker said he wished Dunleavy well.


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