Williams retires

House Finance co-chair: Would work for governor

Posted: Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Bill Williams, the Republican co-chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee who was considering a run for the state Senate, will retire instead, he said Tuesday.

Williams, a 61-year-old longshoreman from Saxman, said that after talking to his family he has decided to return to private life.

"I just looked at how much time I had left in my life, I guess you might say. I'm not getting any younger," Williams said.

Williams did not rule out taking a job with the Murkowski administration if it were offered, he said.

"If the governor would like to have me work for him, I'd seriously consider it," said Williams. No offer has been made, a Murkowski spokesman said.

"The governor believes he's done a great job and made a good contribution as a legislator and we are sorry to see him leave," said spokesman John Manly.

Even as the Legislature finished its work May 12, Williams was planning to run for the state Senate seat now held by Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.

Gov. Frank Murkowski appointed Stedman, 47, when Wrangell Sen. Robin Taylor resigned to take a job in the state Department of Transportation.

Stedman was appointed after Murkowski withdrew the name of Ketchikan businessman Jim Elkins. Stedman has filed with the state Division of Elections to run in the Nov. 2 general election.

Ketchikan resident David Landis, 39, will seek the seat as a Democrat, he said Tuesday. Landis is on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and serves as vice mayor.

A Republican until last year, Landis said a series of GOP "missteps" caused him to change his affiliation.

Williams was elected to the House in 1992 as a Democrat and aligned himself with a bipartisan majority coalition headed by Republican Ramona Barnes.

In 1998 when the GOP took control of the House, Williams changed his party affiliation to Republican. "(But) I didn't ever change my views. I just kept acting like I had been in the past," Williams said.

He was given a seat on the House Finance Committee, one of the Legislature's two budget-writing panels, in 1999 and became co-chairman two years later.

Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Mike Salazar credits Williams with funneling millions in projects to the Ketchikan area including continued state financial support for the Ketchikan Shipyard.

"There was always someone there to protect Ketchikan," Salazar said. "It makes a difference when the (co-chairman) comes from your hometown."

State Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, said the departure of Williams could have serious ramifications for Southeast Alaska. He was the only Southeast lawmaker who served on the Finance Committee in either the House or Senate.

"I really hate that he's not staying in the House. He's got lots of seniority and lots of pull and he was a lot of help for Southeast," Wilson said. "I wish he would consider staying in the House."

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