JUNEAU — Republican Mike Dunleavy was sworn in Monday as Alaska’s new governor, taking his oath in a school gym in the western Alaska city of Kotzebue after poor weather forced a change in plans hours before the ceremony.
Dunleavy had planned to be sworn in in the tiny Inupiat Eskimo community of Noorvik, on Alaska’s western coast that was chosen for the ceremony by him and his wife Rose because it’s her hometown and they have fond memories of the years they spent living in rural Alaska.
Dunleavy initially even planned to fly into Kotzebue and make a 65-mile trek by snowmobile to Noorvik.
But plans began to fall apart after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Anchorage on Friday, causing widespread damage to roads and highways in Alaska’s largest city and surrounding areas.
Dunleavy canceled the snowmobile trip so he could focus on earthquake relief efforts and instead intended to fly straight to Noorvik on Monday from Anchorage on a chartered flight.
But plans were changed again when poor visibility at the small airport in Noorvik prompted Dunleavy’s plane to be diverted to Kotzebue, where supporters, unable to fly into Noorvik, were gathered, said Sarah Erkmann Ward, a spokeswoman for the transition team.
It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for an Alaska governor to be sworn in outside the capital city of Juneau, though Dunleavy’s ceremony was the first to take place above the Arctic Circle.
The judge who swore him in was on the plane with him, and state Sen. Kevin Meyer, who was sworn in as lieutenant governor, was already in Kotzebue.
Under the state constitution, a governor’s term begins at noon on the first Monday in December.
Kotzebue is above the Arctic Circle where then-President Barack Obama visited in 2015 to highlight climate change.
Dunleavy won office by defeating Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in November.
Incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, had dropped his re-election bid in October, days after his lieutenant governor resigned. Walker said he could not win a three-way race and offered qualified support for Begich.
Dunleavy said he had been in close contact with Walker about the response to the earthquake. Walker has said he did not expect the recovery to be affected by the transition in administrations.
Walker said Sunday he and Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson would not attend the swearing in and instead would stay in Anchorage to help with reopening state buildings. Walker wished Dunleavy well.
• By BECKY BOHRER, Associated Press