New Human Rights Commission chair: Debbie Fullenwider - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, August 23, 2019
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New Human Rights Commission chair: Debbie Fullenwider

Alice “Debbie” Fullenwider is the new chair of the Alaska Human Rights Commission, elected unanimously by the commission this morning during the first meeting of the reorganized body.

Fullenwider, of Anchorage, has an extensive background in serving the Alaska Native community, including leadership positions with Eklutna Inc., where she served as President. She was a director of Cook Inlet Region Inc. for more than 13 years.  She also served as a former Director of Cook Inlet Tribal Council and was associated with the Council for over 25 years. Additionally, she served on a number of State commissions, including the Alaska Post-Secondary Commission and the Alaska Equal Rights Commission.

Marcus Sanders remains the vice chair. The commission also acted to retain the acting executive director Nanette Gay, while the process proceeds to hire a new executive director for the agency.

The hiring committee for the new executive director includes Commissioners David Barton, Marcus Sanders and Debbie Fullenwider. The committee will meet on June 17 at 9 am to review the applications received.

The agency’s governing body has been nearly completely made over by the Dunleavy Administration after the former executive director, Marti Buscaglia, resigned upon being sanctioned by the commission for her role in abridging the free speech rights of a building contractor, who had parked his truck in the commission’s parking lot. The truck had a “Black Rifles Matter” decal on it.

Buscaglia, using her official state business card, posted a note on the truck telling the owner to remove it from the parking lot due to the offensive decal. She then mocked the truck owner by posting a picture of the truck on the agency’s official Facebook page, with the comment, “In what world is this OK?” Buscaglia believed the sticker was racist.

Many gun rights owners took exception and Buscaglia took down the Facebook post, but the owner of the truck had already taken his cause to social media and the agency soon fell into disrepute due to the negative publicity. That led to the removal and reappointment of nearly all of the commissioners, and the resignation of the executive director and the chief enforcement officer.

[Read the Must Read Alaska stories on the Black Rifles Matter incident]

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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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