Gov. Mike Dunleavy flew from Alaska’s capital to the nation’s capital this week, getting a chance to get Alaska’s issues on the minds of secretaries, directors and even the president.
Speaking over the phone from Washington, D.C. on Friday, Dunleavy said the chance to sit down at a table with President Donald Trump and other newly-elected governors was valuable, even if he didn’t get any alone time with the president.
“We didn’t get any one-on-one time per se,” Dunleavy said. “When the press left, he went around the table and got our thoughts on the big issues facing our states right now.”
Chiefly, Dunleavy talked about relief efforts in the wake of a 7.0 earthquake that caused damage throughout the Anchorage area on Nov. 30. Talking with the heads of departments such as Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about earthquake relief was a major priority of his going into the trip, he said.
“I think the first thing was to establish a relationship with these secretaries in the various areas such as transportation, and work with FEMA to establish a relationship and to put on their radar screen what some of the issues are in Alaska,” Dunleavy said.
He ended up meeting with people from those departments, specifically talking about plans for earthquake recovery. He said that as aftershocks continue to shake bridges and roads around Anchorage, more problems could occur, so he wanted to make sure federal agencies were ready to help out.
Dunleavy said he felt confident after meeting with them.
“They’re focused on assisting us during this time,” Dunleavy said. “I have complete confidence that we’re going to get the assistance we need.”
Dunleavy, who arrived Wednesday and was scheduled to leave Saturday morning, didn’t limit his meetings to just earthquake talk. He said he met with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and Alaska’s Congressional Delegation of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young.
Mostly these were general conversations about what the secretaries were hoping to accomplish and how Alaska would be affected, Dunleavy said. He said he spoke to Acosta about ways to reinvigorate a workforce, which is one of Dunleavy’s main goals for Alaska. He spoke with Perdue (who visited Southeast Alaska this summer) about the potential of the timber industry in Alaska.
When he visited Alaska, Perdue told reporters that he’d like to see more logging in the Tongass National Forest. Perdue is a proponent of installing an Alaska-specific version of the 2001 roadless rule, which bans logging and road building on national forest lands where roads have not been built.
Dunleavy also said he spoke to officials about the future of a natural gas pipeline in the state and how feasible that might be.
With the goal of putting the nation’s largest state on cabinet members’ radars, Dunleavy said he believes this week has been a success.
“The Trump administration is well aware of what’s happening in Alaska,” Dunleavy said.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.