Sen. Lisa Murkowski is coming to Nome. The senator’s visit this Thursday will be her first trip to the city in almost four years.
“Sen. Murkowski’s traveling to Nome and other areas nearby, mainly to meet with constituents and learn about the issues of their region,” said Karina Petersen, Alaska Communications Director for the senator. “She does make it a priority to get to every region in Alaska as much as possible, and she hasn’t been to Nome in quite a while. That’s why this is the first trip of the year.”
Petersen said the upcoming trip is an opportunity for Murkowski to listen to locals so she can better represent them in Washington, D.C.
Nome Mayor Richard Beneville will act as host for the senator, who arrives Thursday morning.
Beneville said she’ll tour Nome-Beltz Jr/Sr High and the Norton Sound Regional Hospital before meeting with community leaders, including representatives from the City of Nome, Chamber of Commerce, Kawerak, Bering Straits Native Corporation, and Nome Joint Utility as well as members of the private sector and local churches.
For Beneville and the city, one the most important issues to discuss with Murkowski is the proposed expansion of Nome’s port — a project that was put on hold by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in October.
Some view Port Clarence as Nome’s competitor in the campaign to serve as the nation’s deep-draft Arctic port, especially after the Senate passed an act that will allow for infrastructure development at Point Spencer — the spit that shields Port Clarence and that will operate under a public-private partnership between Bering Straits, the state, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
When meeting with the senator, however, Beneville wants to emphasize that the port is not an either-or situation.
“There are a lot of folks who’ve gone, ‘It’s either Nome or Point Spencer.’ Well, it really isn’t. It’s both. And when you look at it that way, it makes a whole lot more sense,” said Beneville. “We look forward to talking more about cooperation between the City of Nome and Bering Straits because this is not just Nome. It’s not just regional. It’s about the state. It’s about the security of the United States of America. That’s what’s important.”
Murkowski will have the chance to see Nome’s port during an afternoon windshield tour of the city, also led by Beneville.
He said she’ll finish the day with a stop at Norton Sound Seafood Products and a meet-and-greet at Airport Pizza — which Beneville called an important opportunity for the senator to speak with locals.
“It’s very, very important. We sometimes think, ‘They’re in town for four hours. What the heck can they accomplish?’ What they can accomplish is a contact with the people,” he said. “The constituents have an opportunity to see you and talk to you and briefly shake your hand. That means a great deal, especially in rural Alaska.”
Murkowski’s meet-and-great will be open to the public and take place at Airport Pizza on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. The senator will then travel to Unalakleet on Friday.