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Saturday, September 23, 2017
HomeAlaska NewsBob Sivertsen, Ketchikan’s family man, running for District 36

Bob Sivertsen, Ketchikan’s family man, running for District 36

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Bob Sivertsen just blew through the door, covered in rain.

And by “blew,” the writer means there were 60-mile-knot winds behind him, and rain battering sideways in waves. Ketchikan style.

It’s a classic November gale in Southern Southeast Alaska, but that didn’t stop Sivertsen and a band of merry volunteers from going out and waving signs on a street corner.

They also waved at an Alaska Airlines jet passing over — a jet that simply couldn’t land in the weather.

“I love these November storms. I like to sleep with the rain pounding on the roof,” Sivertsen said.

Born in Territorial days in Ketchikan, Sivertsen was raised in what was a strong timber and fishing economy. That’s why when he got out of high school he went to work in a spruce mill, sawing up timber. His mom was half Aleut, having been relocated from the Aleutian chain down to Southeast during World War II. She attended the Wrangell Institute. His dad’s side of the family came over from Norway.

And like his father, Sivertsen spent 38 years working for the City of Ketchikan. He started riding on the back of a garbage truck. In those days, the garbage truck crew had keys to nearly every gate in town, as there was no real curbside service.

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As Solid Waste Supervisor, Bob Sivertsen was featured in a “Tougher in Alaska” series on the History Channel.

“We’d even go up into the homes of the elderly and get the garbage cans from under their sinks,” he recalled.  “We’d also carry groceries up the stairs for people.”

That job led to a 38-year career with the city that included the Street Department.

Sivertsen remembers driving a flatbed through town on snow and ice days and shoveling sand onto the roadways, stopping for snowball fights with the neighborhood kids, or pushing cars that were stuck in a berm.

The sidewalks were shoveled by hand by city workers like him back when it was common for Ketchikan to have two to three feet of snow for weeks at a time.

Bob met his wife Terry while she was working at a pizza restaurant. Married for 43 years, they have three children and eight grandchildren. Family has always been important, so much so that when the building of the Trans Alaska Pipeline came along in the 1970s, Bob chose to stay in Ketchikan.

“I just couldn’t see being away from my family, even for a high-paying job,” he said.

Instead, he coached his children through soccer and basketball, relishing the role of father and husband. He would not change a thing.

After 38 years, he retired from the city, and filled a vacant spot on the Ketchikan City Council, where he currently serves as vice mayor.

Through all of it, what he has enjoyed most is meeting people all over Southeast Alaska. Sivertsen is a quiet extrovert: He love people, but he’s not out to be the center of attention in any room.

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That’s Bob Sivertsen driving the forklift as he moves a totem pole to a new location, circa 1970s.

“Over the years I’ve met a lot of wonderful people, and whether they are supporting me or not, Southeast Alaska is just a very resilient region, with strong people. We’ve been able to work through downturns in the economy and fishing slumps. This is a great community,”

Only four days remain before voters make up their minds for Republican Bob Sivertsen or Democrat-Independent, Rep. Daniel Ortiz.  Will Ketchikan return to conservative values or stay with Ortiz, who recently was given a D grade by the NRA?

The race for House District 36 is on, and Sivertsen is heading back out into the gale to knock on doors and ask people to put their confidence in a guy who has made commitment to family and community the hallmarks of his life.

Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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