That was how Dennis Egan replied to me in our last text exchange a few months ago. I had reached out to make sure I still had his right number. “Yup. Still me! Did you leave Hawaii? Good to know you’re still alive.” I told him I had no plans to leave Hawaii, maybe ever. That led to the “Chicken!” I laughed out loud.
It was an on-brand exchange with the man I just called “Boss.”
I chuckle just thinking about Dennis’ hypothetical reaction to my learning about his passing from, of all things, Twitter. Sen. Jesse Kiehl was quote-tweeting a press release put out by Alaska Senate Democrats about a time that then Sen. Egan had told a lobbyist there was no way he was ever going to support his bill, but that the lobbyist still left that conversation with a smile. Because, well, Dennis. Sen. Kiehl’s tweet added another detail to that story: “More remarkable still, the exact line was ‘there’s no way in [expletive deleted] …’” I laughed out loud reading that, despite the obviously sad news, because that too was definitely on-brand.
When I was working for Dennis at the Senate back in 2011, sharing an office with fellow Sen. Egan staffer Jesse Kiehl, I would hear Sen. Egan grumble about social media… a lot. And plenty of expletives were, um, not deleted.
Dennis Egan was just that dude. And I use that word intentionally. He called me “dude” often, always with a sort of half-smirk when he did. I snuck in a “dude” or two his direction when I could, which I know he got a kick out of.
He gave this dude his first real job out of college, too. Using that Juneau connection that may or may not have been initially based on Dennis knowing my dad and all “his cool cars,” Dennis got me into broadcast radio. It even stuck for a bit when I moved from Juneau down to Orange County for a few years, and then came back to Juneau — still doing radio. When I came back, Dennis was not the boss at the radio station anymore (senator is a full-time gig, after all), but he was still around the radio station plenty to bless the Southeast Alaska airwaves with those ridiculously deep baritone vocals: “Good morning, ‘Problem Corner,’ you’re on the air.” When he let me learn those “Problem Corner” ropes and then, for some reason, fill in for him from time to time, I think it is fair to say that that is as close as I will get to achieving celebrity status.
That generosity, too, was on-brand for Dennis.
So, in hindsight, it was not surprising that he also found a spot for me on his Senate staff when I was ready to leave radio. He gave me a good amount of expletive-laden guff when he vouched for me to leave his office and go work for Sen. Murkowski in D.C. a few months later. He gave me a considerable amount of expletive-laden guff about that for years after the fact, actually. And, just like that lobbyist Sen. Kiehl mentioned in the press release, I would always receive that guff and be smiling afterward. Because, Dennis.
His brand was a lot of things. Juneau, for sure. Genuinely caring about the little things that mattered to others, absolutely. But mostly he was just that dude. In that same text exchange a few months ago, I asked him if he wished he’d stayed in politics for all the insanity. He wrote back: “I retired at exactly the right time. I was so excited I had another heart attack and a stroke!” I laughed out loud then, just like I laughed out loud reading about Dennis’ “[expletive deleted.]”
Dennis Egan was able to make me laugh out loud from beyond the grave.
And that is pretty [expletive deleted] on-brand.
• Chester Carson, now of Aiea, Hawaii, was born and raised in Juneau and knew Dennis Egan well. Carson worked for Egan at both the radio station and as part of Egan’s Senate staff.