Time for Alaska to rise as one

Across Alaska, front yards, car bumpers and jacket lapels are shedding campaign signs, stickers and pins. Air waves, newspapers and social media are focusing again on other aspects of our diverse but connected lives. 

The heated partisan rhetoric and rancorous debate that dominated these long months should now truly end. The theme, “Rise As One,” of the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention held this year in Anchorage is a fitting aspiration for all Alaskans. It is time for Alaskans to rise as one.

In the days after the election, we sat down with a team of Alaska leaders to begin a process of reaching out to all Alaskans for advice and guidance. As a result, we have assembled a transition team from across the state representing a broad range of perspectives, experiences and beliefs who collectively will help us begin to address the critical challenges and opportunities ahead of us.

This transition of state government is particularly critical as — for the first time in state history — Alaska will have a nonpartisan, independent administration. This transition team will help create a roadmap of policy objectives and goals for the Walker/Mallott administration. This transition is the first step in following through with our campaign pledge to reach out and listen to Alaskans. It is the first step in prioritizing our campaign promises to accept Medicaid expansion, address the high cost of energy, immediately begin to responsibly reduce state spending and continue to sustain Constitutional obligations for education, public safety, health and justice. The transition team meeting in Anchorage through this coming weekend will be the first step in reaching out to Alaskans so together we can address tough issues like subsistence, fish and game management policy, state, local and tribal relations, climate change and arctic policy and the relationship between our state and the federal government.

It is critical to us that we address all sides of the many opportunities and challenges at hand during this transition process. We firmly believe more voices leads to more ideas and ultimately better solutions for the state. We will strive to seek common ground on historically divisive issues that have divided Alaskans. We will look for ways to strengthen the presence of your state government across Alaska and the delivery of state services and management of programs. We hope to find common ground as we explore new challenges in arctic policy and revitalization of the Army National Guard in rural Alaska. Alaska needs a clear path forward and the opportunity for every voice to be heard is important to the success we seek. We will work side by side with the transition team to listen, to learn and to gain the knowledge and inspiration we will need in the days ahead.

This state is founded upon the notions of hard work, collaboration and a shared vision — not partisanship or angry lines in the sand. Initials demarcating party affiliation will not be tripwires for us when making appointments. We look forward to returning to the best kind of Alaska state government with Democrats, Republicans, independents and nonpartisans working side by side for the good of the state. We continue to say this because we have all seen Alaska’s interests neglected when partisan stalemates in Alaska’s capital have prevented or slowed greatly needed progress.

The journey ahead of us is long but the steps along it we take together as Alaskans can lead us to a future that meets our fiscal needs, grows our economy and gives hope and opportunity for achievement of our aspirations. 

Alaska is a unique and inspirational land of incredible richness, vast distances and many cultures. We have achieved much as Alaskans during these first 50-plus years of statehood. We have much left to do and both the opportunities and challenges are immense.

There are those of us who remember the day in 1959 when the eight stars on the Alaska flag became the 49th star on the American flag. There are those of us who have been born here and many who have come from other places since. 

We are all Alaskans. The Great Seal of the United States reminds us: E Pluribus Unum — “Out of many, one.”  And as our campaign, called by so many, the Unity Ticket, constantly harkened to — “Alaska First, It’s Time.”  

Beyond the transition, we will invite and will reach out to Alaskans, everyone and in every place, so we can come together and make Alaska first.

Bill Walker and Byron Mallott are the governor-elect and lieutenant-governor-elect, respectively, of Alaska.