Alaskans React to Stevens’ Death

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Reaction to Senator Stevens’ death continued to pour in from across the state today.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Political Science Professor Gerry McBeath says Ted Stevens did more than any other politician to ensure the federal government treated Alaska fairly. Stevens had an abrasive manner, but McBeath says the former Senator employed a range of political skills, including great institutional knowledge, to work the system.

Stepehn Haycox, University of Alaska history professor, sees Stevens’ passing as both an historical and personal event.  Haycox says for Alaskans, Stevens was much more than a national figure. He was “our history.” At least since the 1950s.

Myron Naneng is the President of the Association of Village Council Presidents, which represents 56 tribes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. He’s been on many trips to Washington D.C. and says Stevens always had time for locals.

Stevens helped fund all kinds of health services in the YK Delta, including the state’s only inhalant abuse treatment center, located in Bethel, and telemedicine services. Gene Peltola, long-time CEO of the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation, says Steven’s Denali Commission made it all possible:

Juneau Representative Beth Kerttula calls Stevens one of Alaska’s early statesmen, who helped build the state from “literally nothing.”

Kerttula’s father, Jay, a Democrat from Palmer, and Stevens served together in the Alaska House of Representatives in the 1960s and their families were close friends. She recalls the chess game between her father and Stevens that sometimes took place on the House floor.

Jay Kerttula remembers those games well.

The elder Kerttula says the two legislators were often of the same mind on the issues facing the young state.

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