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Legislative centennial celebration concludes

Former legislators tell stories, share memories

Posted: March 5, 2013 - 10:38pm  |  Updated: March 6, 2013 - 1:07am
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Former Juneau Rep. Clark Gruening speaks during the Alaska Legislative Centennial at Rockwell's restaurant on Tuesday.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Former Juneau Rep. Clark Gruening speaks during the Alaska Legislative Centennial at Rockwell's restaurant on Tuesday.

Former legislators reminisced about their time in the Alaska State Capitol on the third and final day of the legislative centennial celebration at a downtown Juneau restaurant.

The three days of events at Rockwell, the former Elks Lodge that housed the Alaska Territorial Legislature when it first convened on March 3, 1913, were planned by the Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission and supported by the Alaska Committee, a nonprofit corporation founded to promote Juneau as Alaska’s capital city.

Two former legislators with deep ties to Juneau — former Reps. Mike Miller, D-Juneau, and Clark Gruening, D-Anchorage, who is now the City and Borough of Juneau’s lobbyist — started the day with remarks on their legislative service during the 1970s and the changes that Juneau and the state have undergone since then.

Gruening acknowledged the work of the Alaska Committee, mentioning his brother, Win Gruening, as well as architect Wayne Jensen, who chairs the committee, and former Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho. He said that “Juneau took a very proactive stance” to counter capital move advocates.

Miller also spoke highly of the CBJ’s efforts to accommodate the state government.

“I think the state is well-served now by the buildings and the staff and the experience and the cooperation of the City and Borough of Juneau,” said Miller.

Miller and Gruening mentioned the State Office Building, Terry Miller Legislative Office Building and Thomas B. Stewart Legislative Office Building as examples of how the Capitol complex has expanded over the years.

Gruening spoke after Miller left early, but his remarks took only a few minutes before he transitioned into a round-robin with attendees, including Botelho, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, former Anchorage Republican Sen. Arliss Sturgulewski, former Senate President Clem Tillion, R-Halibut Cove, and former House Speaker Terry Gardiner, D-Ketchikan.

Sturgulewski spoke glowingly of Alaska’s legislators of the 1970s, including Gruening and Gardiner, for their efforts in building up Alaska’s modern infrastructure.

“Frankly, I think we’re in pretty darn good shape because of the work that was done,” Sturgelewski said.

Tuesday’s lunch event featured more former legislators reflecting on “Accomplishments and Failures in Alaska’s Legislative History.”

The topic was set to shift for the day’s final event, a late afternoon “happy hour” with University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Terrence Cole and former Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, about the Prohibition era in Alaska, which began earlier than it did elsewhere in the United States.

While Cole spoke about the advent of Prohibition, which Alaska voters approved in 1916 on the heels of women’s suffrage, the progressive movement and anti-German sentiments inflamed by World War I, Halford had little to say about Prohibition when he spoke up. He did, however, have a lot to say about his time in the Legislature and his remembrances of fellow representatives and senators.

Gamely, Cole joined in with a story about late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, and the evening program proceeded much as the earlier events had gone.

While the three-day celebration at Rockwell ended Tuesday evening, other events are set to be held around Juneau this month for the 100th anniversary.

On March 30, the Juneau-Douglas City Museum will host a presentation together with the Gastineau Channel Historical Society on the 34 territorial legislators who represented Juneau and Douglas before statehood in 1959.

Another three-day event will be held at UAF starting March 21, an “academic symposium” on the history of the Legislature to mark its 100th year.

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 586-1821 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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