The second session of the 30th Legislature opens Jan. 16 in Juneau.
It is scheduled to end April 15 under the constitutional limit of 90 days. Of the 20 members of the Senate, Chugiak-Eagle River has two, with two more in the 40-member House of Representatives. They are Senators Shelley Hughes and Anna McKinnon and Representatives Dan Saddler and Lora Reinbold.
They have deep footprints to follow, from a long list of dedicated public servants who preceded them. The delegations over the years have been solid and formidable. Heavy participation by voters here has long been recognized by those in power. That, combined with strong people we have elected, has brought attention to needs over the past 44 years.
MacKinnon is a lifelong Alaskan, graduating from Service High School.
Long-time executive director of the non-profit S.T.A.R. (Standing Together Against Rape), she served seven years on the Anchorage Assembly representing Chugiak-Eagle River where she has lived since 1985. She was elected to the House in 2001 and moved to the Senate in 2015. She currently serves as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
Hughes was born in Canton, Ohio, moving to Alaska in 1976.
She has lived at many locations throughout the state, from Southeast to Southwest Alaska and the Interior, and now resides with her family in Palmer. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Alaska. Hughes was elected in 2016 to the seat formerly held by Bill Stoltze after having served in the House for two terms.
Saddler was born in Elyria, Ohio.
He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Miami University in 1983 and his master’s from Ohio State in 1987. He had worked summers in Alaska in 1979 and 1980 before moving to Alaska in 1988 and to Eagle River in 1992. He has worked for various newspapers and in the communications offices of various public officials. He was elected to the House in 2011.
Reinbold is a lifelong Alaskan, born in Fairbanks before moving to Anchorage where she graduated from East High.
She has been active within Chugiak-Eagle River since 2007, serving with the committee working to gain a football stadium for Eagle River High School and as a member of the Chugiak-Eagle River Parks and Recreation Board of Supervisors. She was elected to the House in 2013.
Sen. Bill Stoltze retired in 2016, vacating the seat won by Hughes.
A lifelong Alaskan and 1979 graduate of Chugiak High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1984. He worked as an aide to Rep. Sam Cotten beginning in 1982 and later Sen. Rick Halford. With redistricting based on the 1990 Census, a seat was opened that combined his Chugiak precinct with ones in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Halford was elected to that seat in 2002. When Halford retired in 2014, Stoltze was elected to fill his seat. Over those years he was a constant supporter of his district, popular with his constituents and an influential and highly-respected behind-the-scenes legislator.
Setting a strong precedence for the four current members were the community’s first three legislators—Ed Willis, Sam Cotten and Bob Bradley—elected in November of 1974.
It was an historic event, made possible only because of Gov. William A. Egan’s move to create election districts in Anchorage.
For 15 years after Statehood, Chugiak-Eagle River was part of the at-large Anchorage district. Egan’s reapportionment plan based on the 1970 Census became effective in 1974. Egan is credited with carving Alaska’s largest city into four House districts, one of them combining this community with Anchorage’s Mt. View and Fairview neighborhoods. The reapportionment plan, as have been many since, was challenged but the four district system was upheld.
For the first time, Chugiak-Eagle River had a viable chance to elect one of its own to the Legislature. Instead, it got two. Not only that, but soon thereafter the third man elected to serve the district moved from Mt. View to Eagle River to make it unanimous.
Elected handily to the Senate was former Greater Anchorage Area Borough Assembly member Ed Willis.
Voters chose to send Sam Cotten and Bob Bradley to the House. All three were Democrats. Willis and Cotten were later to be honored when named as top freshmen legislators in the Tenth Legislature. Willis for many years had been politically active, serving as co-chair of Operation Chugiak High School, chairman of the organization opposing unification of city and borough governments and an advocate for special education classes in public schools. Cotten, president of the first-ever Chugiak High School Senior Class in 1965, was a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War. He now is Alaska’s Commissioner of Fish and Game in the administration of Gov. Bill Walker.
Two years later, Eagle River resident Randy Phillips, a Republican, was elected to the House.
He headed the Young Republicans in high school and was senior class president in the CHS Class of 1970.
Cotten successfully ran for the Senate in 1990 and served there for one term. A reapportionment plan ended his legislative service. Gov. Walter J. Hickel’s redistricting plan favoring Republicans put Democrat Cotten and Republican Rick Halford in the same district. Cotten decided not to run against his former colleague and Halford won the seat.
Halford, born in Boston, Mass., moved to Alaska in 1967 where he graduated from Alaska Methodist University.
A registered guide, he operated a lodge and flying service. He was elected to the House along with Phillips in 1978 and served two terms until being elected to the Senate in 1983.
The coalition of Halford, Cotten and Phillips was a powerful one for more than 20 years. When Democrats were in control of the Legislature, Cotten took the lead; Halford and Phillips took over when Republicans formed the majority. Halford was twice chosen as president of the Senate while Cotten was a leader on the Democratic side. They wielded considerable influence.
Phillips, then the longest-serving member of the Legislature, also was a victim of reapportionment. A South Fork resident, he was placed in a district with Mike Hawker, an Anchorage Hillside resident whose precinct covered a much more heavily populated area than the sliver of land on the south side of the Eagle River which was Phillips’ home.
Bradley was replaced by Republican Tim Kelly who had been a legislative aide in his native California and Nevada before moving to Alaska in 1970.
He was elected to the House in 1977 and to the Senate two years later, serving four years there, two times chosen as senate president.
Also serving Chugiak-Eagle River was Eagle River resident Pete Kott.
Elected in 1993, he was an effective legislator until caught up in the same scandal that took down Sen. Ted Stevens. Charges of bribery involving VECO head Bill Allen were leveled against the United States Senator and six other Alaskans. Stevens was convicted, only to be exonerated when Attorney General Eric Holder withdrew the charges due to prosecutorial misconduct. That decision did not apply, however, to the 2006 case involving Kott, who pled guilty. His sentence was limited to time served while awaiting trial. He resigned his seat in 2007.
In view of the partisan acrimony that now exists in the nation’s capital, one can be pleased over the solidarity that has existed among Chugiak-Eagle River politicians since the beginning. Working together has proved quite beneficent for their constituents.
Lee Jordan has been an Alaskan since 1949, moved to Chugiak in 1962 and in 2016 moved back to Anchorage. An Alaska history buff, he enjoys writing about the place where he did not want to be sent, but came to love. He has written four books on Alaska history and has a blog at www.byleejordan.com. To reach Lee Jordan, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.