Monday, October 2, 2023
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Governor visits Kotzebue, topic is public safety

A month after he was sworn in as governor in Kotzebue, Gov. Mike Dunleavy is back in the Arctic community. His traveling companions include commissioners and the president of the State Senate: Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price and Department of Health, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige, and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.

Senate President Cathy Giessel and two members of Dunleavy’s senior policy group are also attending: John Moller and Ben Stevens.

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Dunleavy will be hosting a community town hall meeting today in the Assembly Chambers at 11:30 am. It’s being characterized as a listening session.

Meetings with the Northwest Arctic Borough officials will include the topics of public safety and sexual assault, something Dunleavy has identified as a key focus of his Administration.

Kotzebue is where a young girl disappeared in September, only to be found days later murdered and sexually assaulted. Ten-year-old Ashley Johnson-Barr had been kidnapped and killed on the evening of Sept. 6. Her assaulted body was found eight days later more than two miles from where she had been last seen, at a local playground. The event traumatized the close-knit community; 41-year-old Peter Vance Wilson has been charged with the crimes.

On Dec. 3, Dunleavy stopped in Kotzebue on his way to Noorvik, where he was to be sworn in as governor. The weather in Noovik forced his hand, however, and a ceremony was quickly organized in the high school gymnasium, with students in attendance in an ad hoc assembly, enabling him to meet the noon deadline for the swearing in. He then continued on to Noorvik for his inaugural celebration in the hometown of his wife, Rose Dunleavy.

While in Kotzebue and Noorvik in December, he promised the communities that rural Alaska would not be forgotten. Today is one way that he is making good on that promise.

Kotzebue is an important hometown for the governor, as he taught school and was superintendent of schools there in the 1990 and early 2000s.

Senate President Giessel was a school nurse for the North Slope Borough school district for many years and as a child spent a lot of time in the region with her father, who was a pilot for Wien Air.

The trip includes a stopover at nearby Red Dog Mine. On Thursday, Sen. Giessel shared a study with an audience at the Resource Development Council that shows that the Northwest Arctic Borough has led the nation in the greatest increase of life expectancy, a remarkable occurrence that parallels commercial development of oil, gas and mining in the region.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
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.


  1. “the Northwest Arctic Borough has led the nation in the greatest increase of life expectancy, a remarkable occurrence that parallels commercial development of oil, gas and mining in the region.”

    The Bristol Bay region should take special note of that, and stop with their knee jerk, hysterical opposition to Pebble without even waiting to see a proposed mining plan. (jobs, people….JOBS!)

    On another note…..yay! to having Suzanne back. I know I can speak for many other in saying we had MRA withdrawals.
    You’re the best source of well researched and well written Alaska news, and while I certainly don’t begrudge you a well deserved break, it’s nice to have you back. Happy New Year……

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