KNOWN AS A GENTLE MAN, AND FOR TREATING PEOPLE WELL
Joe Hayes, who was Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives during the 13th Legislature in 1983-84, died on Feb. 16, 2018. He was 88.
In Juneau, many former colleagues in government learned of his death when U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski noted it during her annual remarks to the Legislature on Thursday.
Hayes served with legends of the Alaska Legislature, among them the late Al Adams, Ramona Barnes, Charlie Bussell, and Ben Grussendorf.
According to the Alaska Blue Book* of 1977, Hayes was “an American retired civil engineer, lobbyist and politician. Hayes moved to Alaska with his family as a teenager, among one of the first civilians to travel the Alaska Highway following World War II. Hayes was a founding partner of Tryck, Nyman and Hayes, one of Alaska’s leading engineering firms. He served as a Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 1977 to 1985 and was the body’s speaker from 1981 to 1985. He later became a leading legislative lobbyist in Alaska.”
He was elected to then-District 9-A in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1982.
By 2001, he was the state’s leading lobbyist in dollars earned, representing the cruise industry and a multitude of other clients. He was the go-to lobbyist because he kept extraordinarily good relationships with people, always treating them with respect.
Born in Bakersfield, Missouri on Feb. 18, 1930 to “Darby” and Dicy Hayes, Hayes moved to Alaska with his family during World War II. His uncle, Herman Cotter, worked throughout the Territory of Alaska during World War II and had convinced the Hayes family to come north with him and his family. The Hayes family drove the Alaska Highway in June of 1946 and settled in Anchorage. The following year, Joe Hayes graduated from Anchorage High School.
He attended the University of Washington, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. At the University of Alaska, he received a master’s degree in engineering management.
He was a member of the Anchorage Platting Board and on the roster of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce. Hayes was a partner at Tryck, Nyman and Hayes, an engineering firm.
TALES FROM BACK IN THE DAY
Among the stories that old politicos remember is how, when the confirmation of Norm Gorsuch for attorney general was being debated, Gov. Bill Sheffield called the Troopers to bring in recalcitrant House members, in order to get the quorum needed for the joint-session vote.
That year, the House was controlled by Republicans, with Hayes as Speaker, while the Senate was controlled by Democrats, with Jay Kerttula of Palmer, as President.
The Republicans were going to try to block Gorsuch because of a perceived conflict of interest he had with Sheffield and his hotel business.
But Sheffield called for a joint session on June 7, 1983, and Kerttula supported the call because he knew there were enough votes to confirm.
However, only 17 members of the House attended that day, not enough for a quorum. Troopers searched all over Juneau for the other Republican legislators but came up empty handed. Some had flown to Skagway on a small plane rented by Rep. Vernon Hurlburt, a bush pilot from Sleetmute.
Eventually four were found in their offices and escorted by armed Troopers into the House Chambers, where a vote was held. This short-changed the Republicans, who wanted to hold hearings and bring up information they thought showed the conflict of interest between Gorsuch and Sheffield.
The story of armed Troopers escorting unwilling lawmakers made the New York Times.
Hayes had become Speaker of the House as a result of a political coup, when Democrats formed a coalition with two Libertarians and Republicans, deposing the Democrats House Speaker Jim Duncan, a reverse of how the House is formed in 2018, with a coalition of three Republicans who sided with the Democrats and two “indie-Democrats” to take over the House deliver it to Democrat control.
Hayes opted not to run in 1984, and ran for governor in 1986. It was an unusually crowded field of 14, and he placed fourth after Arliss Sturgulewski, Wally Hickel, and Dick Randolph.
*The author of the 1977 Alaska Blue Book is Robert Burnett, who is Suzanne Downing’s father. This story will be updated as details are gathered. Memories about Joe Hayes are welcome in the comments section below.