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.
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.
“There’s so much to be thankful for,” Dunleavy said. “… 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.
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.”
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.