Stedman assembles strong, diverse team for Southeast - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, September 26, 2020
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Stedman assembles strong, diverse team for Southeast

ADDS BUDGET EXPERT PETE ECKLUND

Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka has assembled an experienced staff from Southeast Alaska that puts the region in a strong position, as he takes over the co-chairmanship of Senate Finance.

Stedman has been put in charge of the operating budget. He was co-chair of Finance from 2007-2012.

His team is also likely the most diverse staff in the Legislature, with three Alaska Natives and a Filipino in influential positions. Added together, his team’s ancestral ties to the region span tens of thousands of years.

For a part of the state that has lost population since President Clinton shut down the timber industry, having such a strong team in place going into the 2020 Census and redistricting process is no small achievement for the region.

Stedman brought Pete Ecklund out of retirement to be his budget expert. Ecklund has served in that role before in the House for former Finance Co-Chair Mark Neuman and for former Senate Finance co-chair Sen. Lyman Hoffman. He’s known in the Capitol as a top budget expert who works quietly in the background.

Ecklund is from Ketchikan and is Tsimshian. There is likely no one in the Capitol who can work his way around the budget as deftly as Ecklund; he is on par with Legislative Finance Division Director David Teal. Multiple lawmakers have succeeded because of Ecklund’s expertise.

Sen. Bert Stedman, left, with his staff from last year, including Melissa Kookesh, David Scott, and Chief of Staff Randy Ruaro. As co-chair of Senate Finance he has added budget expert Pete Ecklund and aide Elizabeth Bolling.

Also from Ketchikan is Stedman’s Chief of Staff Randy Ruaro, who is an attorney and is a lands and energy expert. Ruaro, who was deputy chief of staff and counsel to Gov. Sean Parnell during nearly his entire term in office, is of Filipino lineage and now lives in Juneau. His wife is Tlingit with deep ancestral ties throughout the region.

David Scott is a legislative aide to Stedman. He’s Metlakatla-raised and is also Tsimshian. Scott has worked as a legislative aide for 12 years and is a former rescue swimmer for the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Stetham.

Melissa Kookesh is from Angoon and is Tlingit. She is chair of the board of Kootznoowoo, Inc. and is former assistant to the president of Tlingit Haida Central Council. She is the niece of former Sen. Al Kookesh.

Stedman himself is a fourth-generation Alaskan and claims Norwegian heritage. In 1908, the Stedman family homesteaded in Kake, where the senator’s great grandfather Charles operated a fox farm and worked as a hunting guide and shipwright.

Senator Stedman’s grandfather, Ken Stedman, his father, Ken Jr., and his mother, Bernice Espeseth, were all born in Southeast Alaska. His mother’s family migrated from Norway in the 1920s and settled in Petersburg, where his mother was born. Bernice’s family and their descendants have fished out of Petersburg for over 85 years.

Also on staff is Elizabeth Bolling of Ketchikan, who worked in the legislative office of former Gov. Bill Walker and was staff to Rep. Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan.

Stedman represents much of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Wrangell, Metlakatla, Petersburg, Sitka, Klawock and Hoonah.

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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.

Latest comments

  • This is an interesting development. Stedman is great at keeping funds in Southeast and other rural areas. I was really hoping for a budget hawk. Can you spell pork (or salmon or herring) barrel.

    • And I remember the mess he caused with the Senate Democrat coalition in 2012. Like you say, wish we had a budget hawk but maybe there are none left in the Senate.

  • Great article. It’s a huge benefit to SE, let alone the state to have Senator Stedman back on board.

  • This is so great to hear. Mike Dunleavy is putting together an amazing team.

    Those liberal political operatives in Juneau would be wise not to mess with those southeast natives!

  • Diversity in your face! When Republicans lead the way with it…….silence from the Democrats and mainstream media.

  • Very interesting article! David Scott’s wife is an enrolled member of KIC and they have two daughters. He graduated at the top of his class with a degree in political science. David’s mom is also part Haida. He also worked for the Ketchikan Daily News prior to going to Juneau.
    Randy Rurao’s wife is Tsimshian and is related to David. Randy is Fillipino and part Tlingit.
    True, it must be one of the most diverse staff’s in Juneau ! All are incredibly well educated in their own right.

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