Passing: Art Chance, labor negotiator, writer, and colorful Alaskan

Art Chance
Art Chance

Art Chance, 74, who wrote opinion, theater reviews, and political analysis for Must Read Alaska for many years, passed peacefully in his sleep on Oct. 17, 2023.

He was this publication’s first senior contributor and wrote regularly until about a month ago. “The circle has now been broken,” was the last sentence he ever wrote, said his wife Juno, describing how he started to write what would have been his last column for Must Read Alaska. It’s a column he never finished.

If he could have finished it, he might have ended with “Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses,” one of his favorite sayings, from the lyrics of Toby Keith.

He was the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at

Born in 1949 in rural Georgia, he headed to Alaska during the Pipeline era in 1974, and got a job with the State of Alaska in 1987. He lived in Juneau for several years, before returning to Anchorage, where he lived in the Oceanview neighborhood.

“I went through the oil price crash and the Democrats’ ‘all bets are off’ period, Governor Hickel’s ‘owner state,’ Tony Knowles’ best government Greenies and Unions could buy, a stint working for the Republican-controlled legislature when I couldn’t stand the Knowles people any more, and finally became Governor Murkowski’s director of labor relations, from which I retired on July 1, 2006,” Chance wrote.

“Along the way I saw most everything that is stupid and venal about running a government,” he wrote.

Chance was the author of the political book, “Red on Blue.”

“‘Red on Blue’ is my observations of how Democrat structured governments work and why Republicans can’t run them. A few friends and I tried to restructure Alaska’s government in the early days of the Murkowski Administration so that it could actually be run by a Republican governor. Some things we got right, some not, but we got it better than it had been,” he continued.

Chance retired from serving as the state Director of Labor Relations. For Must Read Alaska, he frequently wrote about public employee and union negotiation issues. But at times he also did theater reviews, as he had for Must Read Alaska Publisher Suzanne Downing when she was editor of the Juneau Empire in the 1990s.

“Art was a friend, a mentor, a fierce advocate for the right thing,” said his good friend Tyler Andrews, who met Art in 1995 and was mentored by him during the Knowles Administration.

Although Chance was colorful, a prolific writer, and was known for his politically incorrect sayings, he always kept a courtly and appropriate demeanor during labor arbitration hearings, Andrews said.

“Art came across as full of bluster…. but he had integrity and he cared for those he mentored. His mentoring not only was passed on to those he taught but to the next generation that followed,” Andrews said.

Chance got his start in labor relations working for a union. He was a shop steward at a school and became involved with Laborers Local 71, and was a Democrat Party operative before he became a conservative.

In addition to working for the state of Alaska, he had worked at Stallone’s men’s shop, and worked at Cabela’s for about four years after he retired. He built greenhouses and solariums in Anchorage for a few years after the pipeline days, and did some contracting. He also wrote for Red State for a few years.

Chance had been in failing health for a few years, and after slipping on the ice and breaking his hip several years ago, he suffered from various health issues.

Some of his more memorable recent writing is linked below. More of his columns from the past seven years can be read by typing “Art Chance” into the search box at the top of Must Read Alaska.

Memorial service arrangements are being made at Heritage Memorial Chapel at Angelus in Anchorage. Juno said his ashes will be scattered later at Handtroller’s Cove near Juneau.


  1. I may have disagreed with Mr. Chance more often than I agreed with him, but my condolences to his family and friends. I’m sure his thoughts and commentary will be missed by many MRAK readers and fans.

  2. Thank you for your service to Alaska sir. The old roadhouses are burnt up and the old school Alaskans are passing on.

  3. I worked for the State of Alaska from ’77 to ’05, and I enjoyed Art’s stories, opinions, and articles. Rest in peace, Mr. Chance. I’ll miss you.

  4. It is a sad day for a big loss of plain old fashioned common sense.
    I already miss his articles of his perspective on issues. Rest in peace my friend.
    Our state will be a lessor territory without his common sense ideas especially when it comes to fiscal responsibility and sound management practices.
    Without Art Alaska is a giant leap closer to becoming the leftist cesspool of the West Coast.
    Common sense is just becoming a thing of the past and nothing makes sense anymore.
    All my children who went through college understood his practical approach to limited governance and letting the common man live without excessive regulation.

    • Nicely written Andy, I too will surely miss Art’s magical pen, I looked forward to his pieces in MRAK, his common sense approach to everything was so refreshing! RIP Art!!

  5. I am stunned and saddened. He was sharp as a tack and I expected years of his long articles, which albeit lengthy, always were well written and thought provoking. Condolences to his wife, extended family and friends. He will leave a gap for sure.

  6. Pretty sure it went something like this….

    Saint Peter: Hello, Art, we have been expecting you.

    Art: Did you know I had to wait in line for 18 minutes before they opened the gate?

    Saint Peter: Apologize Art, we are a busy place.

    Art: No time for excuses Saint Peter. Give me a red pen and a copy of your policy and procedures manual. I’ll get the wait time down to 30 seconds.

    God Speed Art. You will be missed.

  7. Hugs and condolences to my friend Juno and their family. I met Art in his Juneau days and had a lot of laughs with him at the Alaskan after work. Those were the days, my friend. Until we meet again RIP.

  8. I’ll never forget Art’s most insensitive comments when an esteemed professor from UAF passed away. What a classy guy

    • “Esteemed” by whom, exactly? Dimwit Cole?

      Regardless, I among many will miss Art and his contributions, both here on MRAK and elsewhere. He pulled no punches and was entirely unafraid to tell the sordid truth when it came to governmental corruption and malfeasance, which is an increasingly rare characteristic among public figures nowadays.

      • Jefferson:
        The two miniature Cole twins were the most industrious brainwashers in Fairbanks. Trance indoctrinated the college kids and Dimwit fed lies to the general public through the Daily Newsminus. Only the lefties in the Banks bought their books, which were nothing but reconstituted articles from the Newsminus of another era. There was even a third Cole, a career bureaucrat, who the twins got the lefties to name the city hall after. Not much of a legacy to fall back on. Just scrum reporting and lecturing. Fortunately, 2/3 of the schmucks are now pushing up daisies under the permafrost.

    • Let’s be clear here, because “an esteemed professor from UAF” isn’t very clear. Are you talking about Terrence Cole? I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut the past several years, but I guess I no longer have that option. I’ve been studying Alaska history for close to 40 years. The preeminent 20th-century authority on Alaska was Bob DeArmond. DeArmond stressed that serious historians had an obligation to the community to not play fast and loose with factual accuracy. In 2012, after Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins won election to the House, Robert Woolsey of KCAW put out a story saying that JKT was the third-youngest person ever elected to the legislature. He was actually the fifth-youngest, as Woolsey failed to consider Bob Giersdorf and Russ Meekins Jr. in researching the story. No matter, evidently, as this piece of misinformation has been repeated far and wide over the years. Terrence Cole was one of the people responsible for spreading this misinformation. On a more personal note, he was one of a number of professional historians I regularly encountered while doing research at the Rasmuson Library. These encounters followed the same predictable pattern. He would come up to me and right away ask “What are you working on?”. As the conversation progressed, once it became obvious that I wasn’t going to give him any ideas to steal, he would suddenly decide he no longer had time to talk and walk away. Like I said, just want to make things clear. When it came to Alaska history or politics, his idea of engaging people in online discussion was akin to a grown-up version of “You whip yours out, I’ll whip mine out and we’ll see whose is bigger”.

      • True accounting, Sean Ryan. I also took history courses at UAF and learned quickly that Terrence Cole was hardly to be considered an esteemed professor. He was more of a plagurist in my opinion. And a terrible speaker, like his twin, Dermot. Always scratching a part of their bodies while speaking. It was absurdly distracting, but comical to watch. Only the Fairbanks commies gave them much credence as professionals. But the Coles did speak the communist language pretty well, so, go figure.

      • I recall the Cole brothers as being involuntary twitchers during their public speaking engagements. Comical to watch.
        Reminded me of a dog with fleas. Their writings we’re also a bit sketchy.

        • I totally avoided Professor Cole while studying at UAF. He was not highly regarded amongst students, unless you were a pure leftist and hunting for a high grade. Art Chance was so much the better writer and speaker.

  9. I am sorry to hear of his passing. He expressed views the way he saw it. Can’t discredit anyone for that. I knew he was sick, but it shocks me to learn of his passing.
    Blessed thoughts to his family.

    • I’ve had a crush on Art since I read his first article here on MRAK. When he called me a Redneck once in the comments section I was just thrilled he had noticed me. What a Man! His book Red On Blue is not to be missed and it would be wonderful to have a limited publishing of a hardcopy as it should be in every Alaskans history library. Any thoughts on this?

      • Alaska Roundtable has brought out a paperback edition of Red on Blue, $10. It needs to be in the strategy and handbook collection of anyone working on policy and political reform!

        • Well, I never had a crush on Art, but I did greatly enjoy reading what he had to share, and pray for comfort for his family.

          A few months ago, after reading one of his commentary pieces I ponied up the money on Amazon for his book. Not being a Kindle or computer book reader, I have never seen it. I would dearly love to acquire a paperback copy. Spent some time looking for a way to acquire one, but I fell short. May we please get a link to the Alaska Roundtable location that it is available? Thank you!

  10. Agree with MikeT – Art was one of a kind and a good man who could definitely get up in your grill; Plus he liked to go fast in fast cars. Gonna’ miss you and your advice Art!

  11. Did he return back to the Christ he grew up with from his childhood southern baptist church? 🙂
    Sometimes our childhood church wasn’t great about teaching and showing us God and his son, but God held on to us cause God never will forget about us, then in our older ages we know what God and Jesus is all about!

  12. I was saddened today to hear of Art’s passing. Say what you want about the man, but he served the People well. Whether you agreed with him or not, few people cared more about Alaska and Alaskans.

    I am grateful for the few drinks and conversations we shared. He knew I leaned a bit to the left, but he never held it against me personally. He was willing to talk to anyone who was willing to have an honest dialogue with him. It’s too bad so many people couldn’t do that. They missed out on the brilliance and the good heart that was underneath his rough exterior.

  13. Art was a must-read anytime his byline appeared in MRAK. He was genuine, and a guy who didn’t pull punches. He will be missed.

  14. Thanks for giving him this space for his columns, Suzanne. I really enjoyed nearly everything he wrote here.

  15. Alaska has lost a giant. Few realize how critical the role of the chief labor relations manager is in any government, school district or public entity. This person usually reports to spineless politicians that don’t want to rock the boat on behalf of the public paying the costs. That would require faithful and firm negotiations with powerful government unions. The easiest route is always to pander to them and, “give away the farm”. That costs Alaskans hundreds of millions of dollars every year and no one knows it better than an ethical and honest labor relations manager. Art Chance was such a labor relations manager: Patriot and fighter for the people.

    Art, thank you for your service and especially for devoting so much of your retirement to passing on your advice and wisdom in your book and columns.

  16. Art Chance: The absolute Guru in Alaska labor relations and The corporate memory of the political goings-on in Juneau. God bless his Juno and his family. He will be well remembered for his wit, down-to-earth writings, and his integrity to all who knew him. A true loss for Alaska but a gain for heaven.

  17. So sad! A major loss for all Alaskans that want a smaller govt imprint here. I remember he traveled to an out-of-state medical facility for treatment. We can all learn many lessons from his articles.

  18. Suzanne,
    Art Chance was one of the best friends that we Conservatives had. He was loyal to our cause, that is, espousing the need for restraint in government excesses while using rationality and common sense when none seemed to exist. A quality individual, who knew how to address problems with wit, sarcasm, and humor
    like no other writer at MRAK. He was your special friend, and a friend to the MRAK readers. He will be missed. At a certain point in the future, I hope that MRAK will have their own special “Art Chance goodbye,” fittingly at a pub in Anchorage.

  19. Art was a passionate advocate for common sense in government. I am sure that many disliked him for that skill and quality. Art could spot a grifter, of which here in Alaska we have too many, a full kilometer away. For those of us that knew him personally, we need to step up and fill the void if we have any “Chance” to turn Alaska around. Let’s honor him in that way. RIP.

  20. I didn’t know he was sick. His commentaries will be really missed, whether I agreed with him or not. Art was the epitome of what an Alaskan should be. RIP, Art! Condolences to his family, he was truly an icon.

  21. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. I appreciated the times we spoke at various gatherings, and when needed, the professional opinion and guidance he gave me. He will be missed. Thanks for everything Art. RIP.

  22. We rarely agreed on anything, but I do not let that stand in the way of sending my condolences to his family and friends, all of whom certainly mourn his death. I hope that their grief diminishes with the passage of time, and that it’s replaced by fond memories of good times spent together.

  23. Having just learned from his obit that he was blue before he was red much like Reagan and so many others in our country it reminds me of a quote I once heard that is so true:” if you are young and not a Democrat you have no heart. If you are old and not a Republican you have no brain.” Seems are we mature we actually morph and grow up a bit and understand how things actually work. This aphorism above is actually only partially true. Those who go on and mature in their understanding of political and human nature and how things really work retain their hearts for others and don’t discount them. They offer programs funded or otherwise but usually with private funds and volunteers coming forward to help those less fortunate. Davy Crockett learned this lesson while in public service long ago. Art Chance learned his lesson as well and was a master at communicating conservative and sustainable policies. Will you carry on his legacy? RIP Art

  24. I will certainly miss Art Chance. I may have had lunch with Art 50 times or more over the decades, and he was always reliably wise and witty. It’s impossible to forget the sort of capstone comments he had to resolve and bring together diverse opinions. When asked to explain something then underway in state government he would say, “Either someone’s getting laid or someone’s getting paid.”

    Art’s viewpoint on huge subsidies for government projects like construction of a gas line were more succinct and insightful than you should expect to hear from the left but could be aligned with the left. He might say, “If you play a stupid game the most you can expect to win is a stupid prize.” Art really didn’t have a political agenda: He just disliked stupidity.

    Art read history, and that gave him a wonderfully interesting perspective on current events. He had cogent comparisons to make about what winners do to losers following the end of a war, and it was only through Art that I came to understand that southern whites continue to suffer even today from the aftermath of what I call the Civil War. I cannot avoid thinking of that when I see what is happening in Israel today, and how Israel arrived there. The impact of what winners do to losers can last for generations, and I understand that only because of talking with Art Chance.

    Whatever the future holds it will take me longer to understand it because of the loss of Art Chance. I have the deepest sympathy for his family at this time.

  25. Another great Alaskan voice silenced. We will have a hard time replacing him. So much insight and knowledge coupled with writing skill. He will be missed.

  26. Whether I agreed with his pieces or not, I could always count on enjoying his perspective. What a huge loss for so many. RIP sir. Much respect.

  27. Art Chance was one of my favorites and I just sat and cried when I saw this. The last time I saw him in person, he was a little shaky and having some difficulties, but his mind was all there. I love history, politics and smart people. His columns were great treasures. If I opened up MRAK and saw his by-line, I was like–All right! Art Chance! RIP, my friend and condolences To Juno and other family.

  28. Oh, we are lesser of a decent society without Art Chance. Sincere condolences to Juno and family. I will look forward to rereading his wisdom/wit/humor in the coming days. RIP

  29. I must have missed this column the first time it was listed. His was a wonderful legacy. May many learn from his work and carry the flame. Art was a great man and our loss is greater still.

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