FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2014, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, speaks at a campaign rally in Anchorage Alaska. Over the last five years, Parnell has left his mark on education, oil tax policy and efforts to advance a long-hoped-for natural gas pipeline project. He made the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska part of the public conversation through the "Choose Respect" initiative. It is a legacy he is proud of, one he hopes endures after he leaves office Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2014, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, speaks at a campaign rally in Anchorage Alaska. Over the last five years, Parnell has left his mark on education, oil tax policy and efforts to advance a long-hoped-for natural gas pipeline project. He made the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska part of the public conversation through the "Choose Respect" initiative. It is a legacy he is proud of, one he hopes endures after he leaves office Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Parnell says serving was honor

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Sunday, November 30, 2014 10:13pm
  • News

JUNEAU — Over the last five years, Gov. Sean Parnell has left his mark on education, oil tax policy and efforts to advance a long-hoped-for natural gas pipeline project. He made the scourge of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska part of the public conversation through the “Choose Respect” initiative.

It is a legacy he is proud of, one he hopes endures after he leaves office Monday.

“I really had, and have, a vision of a brighter future for Alaska and articulated that as economic growth and economic opportunity and stronger, safer families,” he said.

In a recent interview, he recalled telling his staff that they have left the state better than they found it. His advice to the incoming governor, Bill Walker: “Continue the path of growing economic opportunity for Alaskans, continue the path of respect for all people in the state and take each day and each challenge and do your best.”

The 52-year-old left open a possible return to public office but said his immediate plans include spending time with his grandson, born about two weeks after the election.

Parnell said the results were too close to draw any clear messages from voters, but critics believe resentment from the rollback of oil production taxes and his handling of allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Alaska National Guard contributed to his loss. Parnell ran with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, also said state government lost some checks and balances when Republicans took charge of the Senate following the 2012 elections, putting the GOP in control of the Legislature and governor’s office. Walker is a Republican-turned-independent. His lieutenant governor, Byron Mallott, is a Democrat.

Parnell was serving as Sarah Palin’s lieutenant governor when Palin stepped down in 2009. He was seen as a calm, stabilizing force after the legislative fights that marred Palin’s final year in office following her failed 2008 vice presidential bid. He won the office in his own right in 2010.

As governor, he championed a state-sponsored scholarship program as a way to set higher expectations for high school students and help transform the education system. He supported hiring more village public safety officers, who serve as first responders in rural communities, though turnover remains high. He made record vetoes to budgets he considered bloated, jumpstarted efforts to advance a major gas line project and made fighting federal overreach a focus.

His administration unsuccessfully pushed legislation aimed at improving the state’s permitting system that critics said would have limited public participation. And despite efforts to limit spending, the state, which relies heavily on oil revenues to operate, faces budget deficits amid slumping revenues.

In 2013, after several failed attempts to overhaul the oil tax structure put in place by Palin, Parnell won passage of a tax cut he saw as a way to boost production and encourage new investment. In August, the industry-supported tax cut survived a repeal effort backed by Walker and Palin.

Palin, who endorsed Walker and Mallott as “strong conservatives,” said Parnell, a former ConocoPhillips employee, “came from the oil industry.” Critics saw Parnell as too sympathetic to the industry and blasted the tax cut as a giveaway. Parnell and others say the flurry of activity on the North Slope and billions of dollars in planned investment by companies shows the tax change is working.

Parnell said he was bothered by Palin’s comments but chalked them up to politics. He said the name-calling doesn’t describe him as a person or as a governor.

“Some people are really good at slinging slogans, and then there’s substance. And I know who I am,” he said. “I know that I’m a man who brought all of my heart and all of my strength and all of my soul into this work for Alaskans. I know who I represented and that’s Alaskans.”

The National Guard scandal cast a shadow over the election with Parnell criticized for not doing enough about allegations of misconduct. Media organizations sued for the release of records into the administration’s handling of the complaints that shed little new light on what Parnell has said publicly.

Parnell said he acted on every allegation brought to him, and in February, went to the National Guard Bureau after receiving concrete examples of how the command structure was failing.

The bureau’s findings — which sharply contrasted with an inspector general investigation requested by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski — led to the ouster of adjutant general Thomas Katkus in September. Parnell said he hopes Walker follows the road map laid out by the bureau for restoring confidence in guard leadership.

Parnell said he and his wife, Sandy are grateful for the last five years.

“It’s been tremendous being able to serve in this position,” he said. “It’s been an honor of a lifetime.”

More in News

Sockeye salmon are gathered together at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnets for commercial setnet fishers given emergency approval by CFEC

Up to three 12-hour periods of commercial dipnetting “may” be allowed each week from June 20 to July 31

Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna explores increases to its water and sewer expansion fees

The fees are a single charge to people who are newly or differently demanding or utilizing the services of the city’s water and sewer system

Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to discuss short-term rental tax on Tuesday

The resolution describes a proposed tax of up to 12%

Photo provided by Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula
The Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula team stands together for a photo during the Summer State Games in Anchorage.
Area athletes claim 45 medals at Special Olympics Alaska Summer Games

The Central Peninsula team fielded 17 local athletes in the competition

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19 in Juneau.
Ruffridge talks successes, unfinished business after freshman session in Juneau

Ruffridge is up for election this year, facing a challenger in former-Rep. Ron Gillham

tease
Homer, Seldovia to celebrate summer solstice

Events will be held starting June 20

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Slow sockeye fishing at Russian River, good rainbow trout at Kenai Lake

A Northern Kenai Fishing Report published by the State Department of Fish… Continue reading

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Most Read