Update (11:52 a.m.) – Ryan Cunningham, KTOO
Mike Dunleavy has been sworn in as the 12th governor of Alaska.
The swearing-in took place at the Kotzebue Middle School — a deviation from the original plan to conduct the swearing-in in Noorvik, 40 miles east of Kotzebue. Festivities continued as planned at the Aqqaluk Noorvik School, with the swearing-in being shown on television to a crowd in the school’s gymnasium. The governor hoped to arrive in Noorvik later in the day.
Update (10:40 a.m.) – David Purdy, KTOO
Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy has arrived in Kotzebue after his flight was diverted from the original destination of Noorvik due to weather conditions, according to transition team spokeswoman Sarah Erkmann Ward. The plan is for Dunleavy to be sworn in at Kotzebue Middle School, she said.
Original story – Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media
The swearing-in for Mike Dunleavy as governor and for Kevin Meyer as lieutenant governor is scheduled for just before noon today. Dunleavy is scheduled to fly directly from Anchorage to the Northwest Arctic Borough village of Noorvik for the ceremony. It’s where Dunleavy’s wife Rose grew up.
More people are expected to be the inauguration than live in Noorvik. That means it took a lot of work to get things ready for the event.
More than half a ton of food was shipped into Noorvik for the occasion, and residents provided caribou and salmon. The event is expected to draw up to 700 people to Noorvik’s school. As many as 200 people are coming from other parts of Northwest Arctic Borough and as many as 50 people are coming from other parts of Alaska, according to organizers.
Mary Carter chopped onions in the school kitchen on Sunday. She first knew Rose Dunleavy as a sweet and intelligent classmate.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “That the lady of our village is the first lady. And, wow, she’s from Noorvik and she’s my classmate, man. It’s so exciting. I love this. You know, I love every minute of it. To prepare, you know? I’m glad it’s the onions that’s making me cry. I’m so happy.”
Aqqaluk High and Noorvik Elementary School principal Faith Jurs said all of Noorvik is happy to host the event.
“It means the world to us,” she said. “I hope the rest of Alaska doesn’t mind. It’s a wonderful honor and I think it’s cool. It sends a message that rural Alaska is important. And it is.”
She said the event provides a lesson to her students.
“Because Rose is from here and because Mike has spent so much of his career in rural Alaska, I think the message is: ‘You can do it. You can do it, kids from Noorvik. You can do it, rural Alaskan kids. You can be the governor of the state, or the first lady of the state,’ ” she said. “And it’s an important message and I think our kids are hearing it.”
Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson are staying in Anchorage to work on the earthquake recovery until their terms end. After the earthquake, Dunleavy canceled a snowmachine ride that would have brought him from Kotzebue to Noorvik for the ceremony.
Dunleavy will be the third governor to be sworn in outside of Juneau. Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell had their ceremonies in Fairbanks.
Alaska has a lot going on right now.
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- Usually by August, peak fire season has passed. But fire and climate experts say conditions in Southcentral Alaska were nearly perfect for fire this weekend, from the sky to the dry forest floor.
- A 4% rate increase will take place in January. Then, starting in 2021, rates will go up by 2% each year for 4 years. The City and Borough of Juneau has been steadily raising water and wastewater utility rates for more than a decade to raise revenue to fund improvements to aging infrastructure.
- Joe Balash is one of the highest-placed Alaskans in the Trump administration. In a brief phone call, Balash said he’s resigning to pursue another opportunity.
- Including Dunleavy’s vetoes, the budget cut state spending directly controlled by the Legislature by roughly $400 million.