Fritz Pettyjohn: Josiah Patkotak is just right for Speaker Pro Tem



After Governor Bill Sheffield and Justice Jay Rabinowitz combined to gerrymander me out of my State Senate seat, I ran for the State House in 1984, hoping to figure out a way to get revenge. 

I got elected, but the House Republican minority of the 14th Alaska Legislature had around 14 members, and we were completely ineffective.

Sitka’s Rep. Ben Grussendorf was the Democratic Speaker, but he was only a figurehead. The power in the House was Finance Chair Al Adams of Kotzebue. 

In the 13th Legislature, Al had been Finance Committee chair in a Republican organization. R’s and D’s didn’t mean anything to Al.  He was in Juneau for his people, the Alaska Natives. He led the  six members of the Bush Caucus, and they called the shots.

I was from South Anchorage, originally from California, and I didn’t have any experience with Alaska Natives. I quickly learned that they didn’t allow personal ambition or vanity to interfere with what was good for the group. They were communal, and Al was a prime example.

He was a brilliant guy, and he worked his butt off. He never showed any ego, and was as mild mannered and kind as a guy could be.  Everybody loved and respected Al. When I left the Legislature I was proud to call him a friend.

Right now the Alaska House is adrift, with no one able to form a majority organization. But there apparently is one legislator who has the potential to bring people together – Josiah Patkotak from the North Slope.

Al Adams didn’t just serve the Native people of Alaska.  He served the whole state.  In his spirit, perhaps Josiah should step forward and take a leadership role.  At least for the next two years.

I never got my revenge on Jay Rabinowitz, but I played a significant role in taking Bill Sheffield down.  Day after day I raised hell on the House floor, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate his corruption.  His Attorney General, Norm Gorsuch, was an honorable guy, and he knew I was right under the law.  When he did as I was demanding, and appointed Dan Hickey, the die was cast.  We almost impeached Sheffield, and he was resoundingly defeated in the 1986 Democratic primary.

Fritz Pettyjohn blogs at


  1. Fritz, I agree that the young man from the place formerly called Barrow would be a good choice for Speaker

    I have an observation however about your feud with Gov Sheffield, your crippling of him led to the election of “The High Plains Drifter” how did that work out for you? Also, if memory serves, Bill Sheffield is the only Gov in my memory who actually cut State Spending, a conservative thing to do if memory serves.
    Your thoughts in reply will be appreciated.

    • He did cut state spending and wasn’t a bad Governor. But he was in bed with the thieves who were looting the North Slope Borough. When reform NSB Mayor George Ahmaogak was elected in 1984, Sheffield refused to meet with him when he came to Juneau.
      Plus, Sheffield screwed me. I had to get payback. Politics ain’t beanbag.

    • That High Plains Drifter sure had the oil folks in a panic when that tanker went aground in PWS Robert. Things eventually worked themselves out after some called for enormous amounts of dispersants to be used to sink that oil and even some called for bombing the spill, hoping the fire would remove large amounts.

  2. There’s one sentence in this article to support the title. The rest of it is all about me Me mE MEMeeeeeee.

    Same as your prior article. This kind of thing might be interesting to some in a ‘welcome to 1980’ sort of way but the disingenuous titling could be done without.

    • Trouser Bark, Despite your comment having the “ring” of truth, I submit Fritz’s bit makes for amusing reading, you know, going back and talking about the past is fun, ( if not informative).
      It occurs to me that knowing the past helps us understand the present and out how we got so screwed up?

      P.S. Fritz says Sheffield screwed him over, I wonder if Fritz was a Poker Player back in the day. Seems Sheffield had some doozy card games, attended by elected honchos and other power players. I wish Fritz would elaborate.

  3. Good piece, Fritz, and accurate. I’m not too sure Airliss Sturgulewski, a RINO, would have given you many kudos if you had remained in the Senate. Jack Coghill extracted a little revenge on her in 1990. The House minority was a safe place for you. As to Al Adams, that’s tricky territory. How did Al end up with all of those beautiful homes and luxury vacations to Maui? I wasn’t aware that the salary of House Finance Chair was so lucrative. Adams was a dictator because the Republican majority allowed it. And the lone Libertarian at the time, Andre Marrou, wasn’t allowed to even speak up in Adam’s committee hearings. In fact, Adams took away funding for the LIO in Marrou’s district. I guess my recollections if Adams aren’t quite the same as yours.

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