Gov. Mike Dunleavy spoke with reporters at the Alaska Governor's Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, before greeting guests for the traditional Christmas open house. The event was suspended last year due to COVID-19 but was back this year with limited health mitigation rules in place. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Juneauites fill Governor’s Mansion as annual open house returns

Annual tradition returns with small changes

Juneauites once again filled the Alaska Governor’s Mansion for a Christmas celebration with the governor, an event suspended last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional cookies and fudge were back, too, but this year the 11,000 treats offered at the event were individually wrapped as a mitigation against the spread of COVID-19.

Outside, Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum helped distribute hot cider to those waiting in line. Most of the visitors coming through were families, several of whom said they’ve been coming regularly for years — even generations.

Three generations of the Boehm family were waiting outside the governor’s mansion Tuesday. Tina Boehm, with a 1-year-old McCoy strapped to her back, was with her children; Archer, 8; Maverick, 6; and Elaina, 4, and their grandmother Char Boehm.

“Probably 15 years,” Char Boehm said, when asked how long the family has attended the event.

Dan Strong said he had gone as a child but had come this year for his son, Indiana, 7, who usually went with his grandmother.

The Boehm family, from left to righ, Maverick, Archer, Char, Elaina, Tina and McCoy wait outside the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, for a Christmas open house event. Tina Boehm said she comes regularly with her family. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Boehm family, from left to righ, Maverick, Archer, Char, Elaina, Tina and McCoy wait outside the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, for a Christmas open house event. Tina Boehm said she comes regularly with her family. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Inside the Governor’s Mansion was elaborately decorated for the season and a pianist played Christmas music on a grand piano. Dunleavy, his wife Rose and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer shook hands with guests and posed for pictures.

Speaking with the press before greeting guests, Dunleavy said he hoped Alaskans could come together and resolve many of the issues that had been plaguing the state.

[More rain, snow and overnight ice expected]

“There’s so much to be thankful for,” Dunleavy said. “This is one of only two states that had no rioting or lootings or shootings this past year-and-a-half. We have incredible resources here, the Permanent Fund is doing well. The price of oil, although high for us at the pump, helps Alaska.”

The governor, who’s running for reelection next year, said the state’s response to a potential U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Roe v. Wade would likely be a key campaign issue for many candidates. Dunleavy reaffirmed his anti-abortion stance but said without an actual decision it was difficult to say what actions the state would take.

Cookies and fudge were individually wrapped this year at the annual Christmas event at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Cookies and fudge were individually wrapped this year at the annual Christmas event at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Asked about criticisms his administration was using state money for campaign activities, Dunleavy said his campaign was covering all costs related to his reelection.

“The campaign is paying for anything and everything associated with those campaign activities,” Dunleavy said. “Trust me, we’re all under a microscope we’re going to do everything according to the law, according to ethics.”

Masks were optional at the event, and Dunleavy and members of his administration were maskless throughout the event. The City and Borough of Juneau currently has a masking ordinance in place, though some state buildings, such as the Alaska State Capitol, are able to set their own rules.

During much of the event, the governor had his arm in a sling, the result of recent shoulder surgery. When one guest asked Dunleavy why he underwent surgery, the governor replied: “Oh —age.”

The governor’s office announced Nov. 29, Dunleavy had received shoulder surgery due to “wear and tear on his shoulder is from a lifetime of sports and physical activity.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, left, meets with City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon, right, and City Manager Rorie Watt, center, at a Christmas open house event at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Dec. 7, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, left, meets with City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon, right, and City Manager Rorie Watt, center, at a Christmas open house event at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Dec. 7, 2021. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon and City Manager Rorie Watt were among the dozens who attended on Tuesday.

Among the children at the event —cookies were top of mind. Five-year-old Layton Howard said he didn’t know if he was excited to meet the governor but was excited to get his favorite cookie: chocolate chip.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

Children wave goodbye to Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a Christmas open house event at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The event was suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19 but returned this year with slight health mitigation alterations. The event was well-attended by Juneau families. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Children wave goodbye to Gov. Mike Dunleavy at a Christmas open house event at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The event was suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19 but returned this year with slight health mitigation alterations. The event was well-attended by Juneau families. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

A Southeast Alaska Native gingerbread house was among the Christmas decorations on display at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, during a Christmas open house event. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

A Southeast Alaska Native gingerbread house was among the Christmas decorations on display at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, during a Christmas open house event. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

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