Before officially ending his time in office, former Governor Bill Walker shared his final input regarding his term as the head of the State. APRN spoke with Walker on Thursday before Mike Dunleavy, the new governor, was sworn-in.
Former Governor Walker was the second head of Alaska to be born within the state, after William Egan. According to Walker, some of his most important administrative orders focused on the native people of his home state, including his order declaring a linguistic emergency for Alaska Native languages.
“But it really was an acknowledgement of the near-extinction of some of the languages, and there’s so many languages. We have 229 tribes in Alaska, the entire nation has 500 tribes, so almost half in the nation are in Alaska. And we need to acknowledge that, and we need to make sure those languages are not just continued but also celebrated.”
Based on what Walker has heard from his constituents, he says his work as Governor was appreciated by many. And in turn, he acknowledges the people of Alaska for supporting him.
“My final message is, ‘thank you!’ Thank you for the opportunity to serve; it is absolutely the greatest honor of my life.”
When asked about some of his biggest accomplishments during his tenure as Governor, Walker pointed to a few like his efforts with the Alaska National Guard, expanding Medicaid, and how his administration brought together politicians.
“I think the way we put together, not just a unity ticket, that was one thing, but it was a unity administration. We were a bit of a blended family at the beginning and as far as the campaign as well. So it really was like a family, and it was folks who otherwise wouldn’t have any connection with each other because we are nonpartisan.”
Walker hopes some of his projects and work will be continued in the future by the new administration under Governor Dunleavy, specifically the Alaska gas line, the public safety action plan, and the efforts taken to improve education across the state.
From one governor to another, Walker’s message for Dunleavy is simple.
“I would always say the same thing: put people before politics. It’s really people at the end of the day that are impacted by the decisions we make, so put people first and politics second.”
Since Monday marked Dunleavy’s official swearing in as the 12th Governor of Alaska, he is mainly focusing on appointing more members to his staff and cabinet. During Dunleavy’s speech in Kotzebue, he stated public safety would be his top priority going forward.
Former Governor Walker says his priorities are spending more down time at his cabin, building more structures on his property, and possibly continuing to work on resource development in some capacity.
Photo at top: via State of Alaska, 2017.