Senator Murkowski E-Newsletter for the week of February 26, 2014


I just wrapped up a great week back home in Alaska, where I was able to catch up with many of you in Anchorage, Girdwood, Kenai, Juneau, and Ketchikan.  I gave my annual speech- for the twelfth time – before our state legislature, and met with Alaskans around the state to discuss issues across all economic sectors. I thank each and every one of you for your time.

Arctic Representative

On February 14, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would soon name a Special Representative for the Arctic Region.  While I am encouraged that in his announcement Secretary Kerry recognized the need to make the Arctic a higher U.S. priority and to elevate our attention and efforts in the region, it is not clear to me what the position’s scope of authority, both within the State Department and amongst the international community, will be.  It is also important to recognize that merely naming a representative is not enough.  We must also commit resources to the region to obtain the benefits, and address the challenges, that come from being an Arctic Nation.

(As the U.S. delegate to the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region I attended a meeting on Monday in Ottawa and met with Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, and Minister for the Arctic Council.)

Veterans Spotlight – U.S. Navy Jane Fuerstenau

I am pleased to introduce the most recent edition of my Veteran Spotlight featuring Kenai resident Jane Fuerstenau. Jane served in the U.S. Navy as a jet mechanic and then later in the Reserves. Now she serves the nation and her fellow veterans as a librarian – working with veteran students at Kenai Peninsula College.

(Click on image for excerpt of Jane talking about some of the discrimination she has experienced as a female veteran. CLICK HERE for the entire interview)

Jane joined the military after a year and a half of college when she realized she wanted something else. It was the luck of the draw that brought her to the Navy, and although she signed on to be a hospital corpsman, a paperwork mix-up put her on track to become an aviation machinist.

She climbed the ranks for the next five years, until she realized the next promotion would take her off the jets she loved.  Fuerstenau decided to leave the Navy to pursue the next chapter in her life, but it was difficult for a woman to find a job as a mechanic.

Today, Jane Fuerstenau is head librarian at Kenai Peninsula College where she has embraced her military and veteran status and connects with her veteran students, but she says it was a long time coming. 

If you have a family member or friend in the community you think has a story to share about their military service, email me at Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.

Rest in Peace to Two Alaskan Icons

Since I last shared an update with you, Alaska has lost two men that mean a great deal to our state – for statehood, and their patriotism and compassion for Alaskans.  I am speaking about Alaska’s last territorial Governor, Mike Stepovich, and also Robert “Joker” Lupo, a vibrant and colorful member of our veterans’ community.

Gov. Stepovich played a vital role in Alaska’s admission to statehood, and for the 54 years that followed, he occupied a prominent place on the public policy scene. With Mike's passing we have lost another link to Alaska’s territorial history and that leaves a huge hole in my heart.

Mike Stepovich and his family were some of our earliest and closest friends when my family moved to Fairbanks in the early ‘70s. Mike and his wife Matilda raised a large and loving family and while many Alaskans remember his role as a statesman, I will always think of him first as a friend and true family man.

I will be there to remember Mike at the celebration of his life on Friday in Fairbanks.

(Governor Stepovich, beaming with pride between President Eisenhower and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Frederick Seaton, when Alaska officially became the 49th state.)

Alaska lost another friend last week with the passing of Robert “Joker” Lupo who was a legend in Alaska’s veterans’ community.  Joker was in the Air Force, Navy, Alaska Army Guard, and retired from the U.S. Army in 1996.  In his retirement, he also served as the chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club.

As much as we remember and honor his service, I will always recall his big bear hugs and constant smiles.  He loved his country and was proud to say so – it’s tough to read his touching, heartfelt poem ‘Emotions’ with a dry eye. I was pleased that I was able to help him share his poems and tributes with your veterans when he read at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund "In Memory" Day on April 19, 2010. Thankfully, I was able to speak with him in his final days and tell him how much he meant to me and to Alaska’s military community

(With my friend Joker, a true patriot, at a Memorial Day event in 2010. You can watch Joker recite his poem by clicking on the picture above.)

Around Alaska

(At the Ketchikan Indian Community building I met with 102 year old Henry Neligan II, member of the Alaska Territorial Guard.)

(I was honored to be asked to cut the ribbon at the Ketchikan Medical Center-Chemotherapy Infusion Suite – a way for Alaskans to get cancer care without flying to Seattle.)

(Out on the docks at the Coast Guard Base in Ketchikan; we lucked out with such a beautiful day!)

(Speaking to the Juneau Rotary, sharing the latest developments back in Washington, DC.)

(Did you miss my speech to the Alaska State Legislature? Click on the photo above to watch it.)

(Visiting with the Women of the Alaska State House and Senate where women make up a bigger percentage of the Alaska State Legislature than the U.S. Senate!)


(At the Duct Tape ball, they let me wear a sash made out of duct tape. It was certainly a great event with proceeds benefitting three different charities.)