Mackie throws in towl

Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2000

On his birthday, Sen. Jerry Mackie announced a decade of lawmaking was enough for now.

Mackie, a Craig Republican, turned 38 Monday. The majority leader of the Senate announced he would not run for re-election after this session, saying he needed less stress and more time to devote to his growing family.

``I have made the decision that I am going to retire,'' he said. ``I pretty much made that decision over the interim. It's time to take a break. I need to spend more time with my young family.''

Mackie has two sons, 16 and 2, and another on the way. He and his family are now living in Douglas, where they have a new home. Mackie said he intends to stay.

``We really like Juneau,'' said Mackie, whose Senate district includes small Southeast communities and Kodiak. ``Juneau is a great community.''

He said he's considering several job offers, and will avoid public employment for now. Before moving to Juneau, he had been managing the Sunnahae Lodge in Craig. Mackie used to own a nine-boat, 25-employee business, but sold it in 1997, agreeing to run it for the new owner for two years.

Though taking a break from politics, Mackie said he will consider a run for statewide office in the future. If there's a good candidate already in a race for governor in 2002, he said, he'll be ``less inclined to run'' for a seat.

Originally a Democrat, Mackie served in the House from 1990 to 1996 and was minority leader during his final two years. He defeated longtime incumbent Democrat Fred Zharoff in 1996 to win his Senate seat and later switched to the Republican Party. He has said he planned to run for governor some day.

Mackie said leaving now is a good political move. Being a sitting legislator would be a political liability if he runs in a statewide election. He also thinks it's time for someone fresh to take his Senate seat.

``We need to have new people,'' he said. ``The longer (you're) here, the more you become a part of the problem, not of the solution.''

One of the reasons he announced in January, he said, is because his district is so expansive. Candidates will have a difficult task ahead of them traveling to the communities on both sides of the Gulf of Alaska, he said.

The House members within his district are Alan Austerman, a Kodiak Republican, and Al Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat.

Kookesh was traveling today and unavailable for comment.

Austerman, now in his third term in the House, has filed a letter of intent to fill Mackie's seat. He said he'll be boning up on the Southeast slice of Senate District C, which is a long way from his normal political stamping ground.

``I'm not near as familiar as I need to be,'' he said. ``I plan to get familiar.''

Mackie said he's proud of his Capitol time.

``I've always tried to be nonpartisan,'' he said. ``I've been able to do just about everything I wanted to in the Legislature.''

As with other legislators who've announced their intent to leave after this session, Mackie said he was disappointed lawmakers couldn't come up with a solution to the state's revenue gap and subsistence dilemma during his tenure. Sen. Al Adams, a Kotzebue Democrat; Sen. Mike Miller, a North Pole Republican; and Rep. Gary Davis, a Soldotna Republican, have also announced retirement plans.

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