In this March 2016 photo, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, questions Dr. Susan McCauley, Interim Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, during a Senate Education Committee on SB 191 at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this March 2016 photo, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, questions Dr. Susan McCauley, Interim Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, during a Senate Education Committee on SB 191 at the Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Dunleavy will do what’s right for Alaska

Mike Dunleavy is hard-working, honest, intelligent, trustworthy and the man we need as governor of Alaska.

I met Dunleavy at a friend’s house in Kotzebue in the early ’90s while serving on the regional school board of the Northwest Arctic School District. Mike had recently been hired as superintendent, and I was excited to meet the towering 6-foot-7 man who I had high hopes would bring positive change to our school district (he didn’t disappoint).

I already knew his wife, Rose, and heard the story of how Dunleavy drove from Koyuk to meet her in Noorvik, which greatly impressed me, as that’s no simple task.

My initial impression of Mike was that he’s not a guy who beats around the bush. He’s a straight shooter who tells it like it is — a trait that might not serve him well as a politician. Nonetheless, it’s why I know that when he says he’ll do something, such as protect the Permanent Fund Dividend, I believe him because that’s who he is — a man of his word.

Right off the bat as the new superintendent, it was clear Dunleavy was a hard worker. He was always in the office working late into the night when everyone else had gone home and the first one there in the morning before anyone else had shown up. He always made sure he got the job done and done right, leading by example.

You won’t find a stronger or more informed advocate for public education, or someone who understands the different challenges faced by both urban and rural students, parents and educators. He’s done it all as a teacher, principal and superintendent, with experience in both environments. That’s why I know when his opponent tries to hurt his reputation with wild accusations that he will be bad for rural schools — I know there’s no truth to it. He understands the problems kids face in Noorvik under a completely different set of circumstances than Anchorage, and he knows that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make sense for every student.

He and I have worked together for years trying to give kids in rural Alaska more options. And so I know first-hand his advocacy for making sure kids in rural Alaska have access to the same educational opportunities as kids in urban Alaska.

Dunleavy is someone who understands — truly understands — what it’s like for folks living in rural Alaska because he lived there for almost 20 years. His family is from rural Alaska and he’s lived in a village of 600 people. In rural Alaska, they tend to judge strangers right away. If you don’t personify trust and prove that you’re a genuine person, they won’t like you, and people loved Dunleavy. He treated everyone with kindness and respect and adapted to the new lifestyle; people accepted him. During his time in Kotzebue, he also earned a reputation of being a strong family man; he and Rose have done an outstanding job raising their three daughters, Maggie, Catherine and Ceil.

We need Dunleavy in there as governor to fight for what’s right. He’s the only guy running for governor who understands and lived through the problems we face every day. To me, it comes down to a choice between a career politician and Dunleavy — a genuine person who tells the truth. I choose Dunleavy.


• Kenny Gallahorn, born and raised in Kotzebue, is a registered undeclared voter and served on the Northwest Arctic Borough School Board during Mike Dunleavy’s tenure as superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. Gallahorn also later served on the State Board of Education. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


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