Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his wife, Rose, welcome Juneau residents at the Governor’s Open House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his wife, Rose, welcome Juneau residents at the Governor’s Open House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Amid holiday fanfare, Dunleavy ready to get to work

Meeting with president, submitting budget on agenda this week

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s first stay in Juneau as governor was a brief but festive one.

He arrived Tuesday morning and was set to depart Wednesday to meet with officials in Washington, D.C., including President Donald Trump. During the course of the day Tuesday, Juneau’s rain briefly turned to snow and the Governor’s Mansion became the epicenter of holiday spirit in the capital city for the annual governor’s open house.

Dozens of cookies lined the dining room table, leading attendees to view gingerbread houses and a model train set by the west windows of the home.

[Photos: Governor’s open house]

Before visitors showed up, Dunleavy gave a brief update on his transition to governor. He said his team will likely unveil its budget this Friday with changes to former Gov. Bill Walker’s final budget.

“It’s going to have some slight changes from what the governor did, because we need a little more time to actually put our stamp on it and spend some time working through the details of the different parts itself,” Dunleavy said.

Chief among those changes is a full Permanent Fund Dividend and a repayment of PFD funds that would have been paid to residents under the state’s old PFD formula, Dunleavy said. He campaigned heavily on those points, and said he’s going to do everything he can to make his campaign promises a reality. Dunleavy said his administration will then submit an updated budget in January.

When asked specifically what he thought the biggest challenges and priorities for Southeast are, Dunleavy said he believes the same priorities ring true in Southeast as the rest of the state: public safety, a balanced budget, getting people employed and restoring the full PFD. He also said he’ll search for ways to make the Alaska Marine Highway System more sustainable.

“Everything in this administration is going to be about making things sustainable over the long term,” he said.

Among the first people Dunleavy spoke to when he arrived at the open house Tuesday were Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon and City Manager Rorie Watt. Weldon, who is also new in her position after earning her seat in the October municipal election, said having a strong relationship with the governor is important for the city.

“We want him to realize that Juneau’s a very welcoming community,” Weldon said. “We’ve given him our card so he knows how to get in touch with us if there’s a problem or if there’s anything Juneau can do to make him and the Legislature’s stay more comfortable.”

Dunleavy’s wife Rose stood by his side in front of the fireplace, eager to meet their new neighbors. Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and his wife Marty were stationed beside them.

While some people come to the open house every year, two of the first people through the door were there after a long break. Longtime Juneau resident Janet Coffin said she hasn’t come to the governor’s open house since 1980. Alongside Coffin was Cathy Painter, who said she hasn’t been to the event in more than 20 years.

Getting to meet the new governor was the main reason for attending, they both said.

“It was great to meet him and the first lady,” Painter said, “and see how tall he really was.”

Painter said she made a comment to Dunleavy about his height, and Dunleavy joked that he only seemed tall because of the mat he was standing on near the fireplace.

A little while later, a group of fourth- and fifth-grade students performed for those in attendance. The students are part of Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM), a program that gets children involved in music at an early age. Glacier Valley Elementary School fifth graders and musicians Della Mearig, Alba Muir and Leslie Zamora were all bright-eyed as they walked through the heavily decorated house.

Muir said she was grateful for the opportunity to play. Zamora said she had been to the mansion on a school field trip before, but she was “amazed” as she walked through it this time. Mearig also recalled being in the mansion on a field trip before, but said this time was quite different.

“It’s super exciting that we get to be treated like professionals,” Mearig said. “Even though we’re still in school and still kids, we get to play for the governor.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

Juneau residents file through the dining room for cookies at the Governor’s Open House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau residents file through the dining room for cookies at the Governor’s Open House on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in Home

A waterfront view of Marine Parking Garage with the windows of the Juneau Public Library visible on the top floor. “Welcome” signs in several languages greet ships on the dock pilings below. (Laurie Craig / For the Juneau Empire)
The story of the Marine Parking Garage: Saved by the library

After surviving lawsuit by Gold Rush-era persona, building is a modern landmark of art and function.

Current facilities operated by the private nonprofit Gastineau Human Services Corp. include a halfway house for just-released prisoners, a residential substance abuse treatment program and a 20-bed transitional living facility. (Gastineau Human Services Corp. photo)
Proposed 51-unit low-income, long-term housing project for people in recovery gets big boost from Assembly

Members vote 6-2 to declare intent to provide $2M in budget to help secure $9.5M more for project.

A troller plies the waters of Sitka Sound in 2023. (Photo by Max Graham)
Alaska Senate proposes $7.5 million aid package for struggling fish processors

The Alaska Senate has proposed a new aid package for the state’s… Continue reading

Members of the Alaska House of Representatives watch as votes are tallied on House Bill 50, the carbon storage legislation, on Wednesday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House, seeking to boost oil and gas business, approves carbon storage bill

Story votes yes, Hannan votes no as governor-backed HB 50 sent to the state Senate for further work.

An illustration depicts a planned 12-acre education campus located on 42 acres in Juneau owned by the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, which was announced during the opening of its annual tribal assembly Wednesday. (Image courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
Tribal education campus, cultural immersion park unveiled as 89th annual Tlingit and Haida Assembly opens

State of the Tribe address emphasizes expanding geographical, cultural and economic “footprint.”

An aerial view of downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Task force to study additional short-term rental regulations favored by Juneau Assembly members

Operator registration requirement that took effect last year has 79% compliance rate, report states.

Cheer teams for Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé perform a joint routine between quarters of a Feb. 24 game between the girls’ basketball teams of both schools. It was possibly the final such local matchup, with all high school students scheduled to be consolidated into JDHS starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
State OKs school district’s consolidation plan; closed schools cannot reopen for at least seven years

Plans from color-coded moving boxes to adjusting bus routes well underway, district officials say.

In an undated image provided by Ken Hill/National Park Service, Alaska, the headwaters of the Ambler River in the Noatak National Preserve of Alaska, near where a proposed access road would end. The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a mining company to build a 211-mile industrial road through fragile Alaskan wilderness, handing a victory to environmentalists in an election year when the president wants to underscore his credentials as a climate leader and conservationist. (Ken Hill/National Park Service, Alaska via The New York Times)
Biden’s Interior Department said to reject industrial road through Alaskan wilderness

The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a mining company… Continue reading

Most Read