This is Alaska's loss and Stanford's gain. House Minority Leader Rep. Beth Kerttula announced today her resignation from the Alaska legislature to accept a fellowship at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University in California, for at least one year, maybe two.
One of Alaska's smartest, ethical, and most personable legislators, Kerttula will be sorely missed by progressives in Alaska.
...Before her first election to the House from Juneau in 1998, Kerttula, 58, an attorney, worked with the state's Coastal Zone Management program as an assistant attorney general under independent Gov. Wally Hickel and Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles. She also worked for the state on several big pipeline tariff lawsuits against oil companies before she joined the Legislature...This is Beth. If you are interest in oceans, climate, the Arctic, particularly on the West Coast, keep an eye on her. She'll be the only one on Stanford's committee with legislative/policy experience to help integrate science with policy.
Anchorage Daily News story here:
Kerttula, 58, has been in the Alaska legislature since 1998. She has been SE Alaska's leading star as far as progressive Democrats go in Alaska. Redistricting may have put some extra pressure on her, as she has seen her legislative boundaries stretched outside of Juneau and adding several smaller communities in SE. New for 2012. And new once again for 2014, as lines once again changed.
The legislative shuffle begins and will see House Minority leadership shift from Juneau to Anchorage.
Anchorage Rep. Chris Tuck, 47, the Democrat's minority whip, will take over as minority leader. Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, will assume Tuck's job as whip. Two of Kerttula's staff members who work with the caucus, including spokesman Mark Gnadt, will work for Tuck. Her two other staff members, including the Democrat's oil-tax guru, Ken Alper, will likely occupy the empty District 32 representative office until her successor is appointed, she said.It's hard to speculate on the larger implications. Kerttula has long been viewed as the strongest candidate to run for Alaska Senate, representing Juneau and northern SE communities, should a Senate vacancy, currently held by Dennis Egan, become vacant in the future. Without Beth, the odds increase for a chance at that future Senate seat to be won by Rep. Cathy Munoz, a popular representative among the ALEC crowd in Juneau, and Beth's polar opposite politically.
Kerttula said her resignation will be effective Friday at 5 p.m.
It's been no secret that the current legislature, due to grievous redistricting maneuvers by Alaska's GOP, is Alaska's worst legislature ever. The House minority was reduced to 10 out of 40 prior to Kerttula's departure.
According to Alaska law, Gov. Parnell will appoint a replacement submitted out of three names submitted by Alaska's Democratic Party. Kerttula leaves shoes that will be hard to fill.
The final chapter is yet to written:
Kerttula said the visiting fellowship was a dream job for her in the private university's new Center for Ocean Solutions, a consortium between Stanford, the Stanford law school, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The fellowship was only offered to her last week. She and her husband will relocate to the Bay area for the duration of the job, but expect to return to Juneau when it ends in a year or two.In the meantime, consider this a major political shakeup for Alaska, and particularly for Southeast. And perhaps some interesting activity on a different front.
Kerttula said she will work with academics and scientists on issues related to climate change, ocean acidification and the Arctic.
"I don't think I can overestimate my experience with coastal-zone management," she said. While she didn't have all the details on the fellowship, she said, "I know that what they were really interested in is my idea to bring together West Coast legislators and policy makers with scientists and people studying the ocean issues and to try to move that forward in the legislative realm."A little history here from Alaska Dispatch involving a vacant Senate seat in 2009 (when Sen. Kim Elton left to work for Obama Administration) and former Gov. Sarah Palin, when Alaska Democrats put forth Kerttula's name for replacement. Palin refused to appoint Kerttula to the position, which probably tells you more than anything how well qualified Kerttula was and is to be Senator in AK legislature or anything else she wants to be.)
Her resignation will mean the selection of a new leader for the Democratic House minority, as well as a new appointment to the downtown Juneau legislative seat Kerttula has held since 1999. That process, however, is unlikely to be a repeat of the bitter battle over the Juneau state Senate seat held by former Sen. Kim Elton, who resigned in 2009 to join the Obama Administration with the Department of Interior.
Kerttula had sought the appointment to Elton's vacant seat, but then-Gov. Sarah Palin, still smarting over Kerttula's support for the candidacy of Barack Obama, was unwilling to appoint Kerttula. Juneau Democrats broke with tradition and instead of giving Palin a slate of three options to choose from, submitted only Kerttula's name for the nomination.
Palin responded by seeking nominations for the position on her own, but her nominees were then unable to win the required confirmation from Senate Democrats.
Eventually, former Juneau Mayor Dennis Egan was confirmed as senator, with the support of Kerttula, the Democrats and Palin.