This photo shows the Alaska State Capitol in January 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

This photo shows the Alaska State Capitol in January 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

Opinion: Public servants in leadership roles should be based in the capital city

Where they live is crucial to the success of their work.

By Bridget Smith

I’ve watched for more than 50 years the ebb and flow of state government. I share the concern stated in the Jan. 11 Empire by our local city and state leaders that retaining state jobs in Juneau is a priority and the loss of such jobs is worrying. Both rank-and-file jobs and leadership jobs have been moving north. I am not the only one to have noticed these jobs, and the people holding these jobs, silently moving to Anchorage, mostly under the radar. The phenomenon even has a name: Capital creep. More accurately now, it could be termed Capital gallop.

For effective governance, our public servants who fill leadership roles should be located in our state’s capital, as in our nation’s capital. As the president, the vice president and their cabinet live and work in Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital, so too should our leaders live and work in Juneau, our state’s capital.

The executive branch of our government is headed by the elected governor and lieutenant governor, and they, along with all 14 commissioners who head the departments of state government, are responsible for the “faithful execution of the laws and public programs enacted and funded by the legislative branch.” As such, they should live and work in Juneau in order to carry out their duties, critical to the people of Alaska.

The commissioners belong to the governor’s cabinet, which has a designated meeting place in our state capitol. As the cabinet is an essential leadership group, it is necessary for them to be in Juneau to oversee the work of the executive branch from the capital of the state. The commissioners advise the governor and need to be available to him or her. The presence of the commissioners in Juneau has great consequence as they assist our legislators who are making the laws that the executive branch must carry out. They are needed to testify, to give information, to work together with our elected officials to serve Alaskans. Where they live is crucial to the success of their work. Without the leadership being in the same place, the center fails. People in the same physical space create a synergy that is more powerful than the individuals alone.

That is why, in a corporation, it is called a headquarters. In the military, it is called a command post. And in a government, it is called a capital.

Without the governor, lieutenant governor and their cabinet residing and working in Juneau, the capital is a shell. And their absence has negative consequences for the Alaskan people.

Bridget Smith resides in Juneau. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.