The flag that flew above Alaska’s state capitol at the funeral of former lawmaker Elton Engstrom Jr. was presented Wednesday to his daughter, Juneau Rep. Cathy Munoz.
Anchorage Rep. Mike Hawker organized the ceremony and memorial for Engstrom, who passed away Nov. 6, 2013. By coincidence, the presentation was made on what would have been Engstrom’s 79th birthday.
He represented Juneau as a Republican in the legislature from 1965 to 1971.
Munoz is from a long line of Alaska politicians. Her grandmother, Thelma Engstrom, and grandfather, Elton Engstrom Sr., were both elected to the Alaska Territorial Legislature. Then Engstrom Sr. served in the Senate just after statehood. His son was elected to the House in 1965 and to the Senate in 1967.
Munoz was only about a year old when her father ran for office, but she’s heard the stories for years. During a speech yesterday on the floor of the House, she related some of the history of those early years after statehood.
When he was elected in 1965, the budget for the entire state was $100 million.
Munoz said her father was 30 when he was first elected to the legislature. He served among lawmakers who made legislative history as they helped build the new state, including Ted Stevens, Jay Hammond, Jay Kerttula, Clem Tillion, and Nick Begich. John Butrovich was Senate President at the time.
They were developing the Alaska Marine Highway system, the infrastructure; they were putting together the payroll system for the state, all of the nuts and bolts. They were building the infrastructure of the communities.
At the same time, they were rebuilding much of Southcentral Alaska after the 1964 earthquake, and Fairbanks, after the 1967 flood.
And then in 1968, the political landscape completely turned upside down with the discovery of oil and an infusion of $900 million into the coffers overnight. It was quite a change and my father was right in the middle of all of that change.
Munoz called Engstrom her mentor. After she was elected to the House in 2008, she said her father often slipped into the gallery of the House to watch special votes, but would never allow her to introduce him.