UNALAKLEET, Alaska - Gov. Sarah Palin was welcomed Friday as an old friend as she traveled to this rural Alaska town to sign a bill that continues subsidies for rural energy costs.
The trip to the village along the Bering Sea was also a farewell of sorts as she prepares to leave office July 26 following her surprise resignation announcement.
Palin said the visits throughout the state were not a farewell tour but rather a way to thank Alaska residents for allowing her to serve as governor.
"I am Alaskan. I've grown up here and I'm going to remain in Alaska," she said in an interview. "It's not farewell, it's more like thanks for letting me be here and I'll see you soon."
Palin thinks Alaska voters have accepted her decision to resign - even as she is criticized in the national media and even by some fellow Republicans who question her decision to leave with a year-and-a-half left in her four-year term.
"I think people understand I am not cut out to waste time and be a part of a game that will result in public resources being wasted," she said. "I love Alaska too much to scratch and claw my way to hold onto the title of governor when I know it is best to continue to make progress with the same Cabinet members and the same agenda, but under the leadership of (Lt. Gov.) Sean Parnell."
Mayor William "Middy" Johnson thanked the governor for coming to Unalakleet and noted the many children were in attendance. More than 100 people showed up at the community center and bingo hall for the bill-signing and pot luck lunch.
Lisa McCoy of Unalakleet said she was thrilled to meet Palin and sorry to see her leave office.
"I wish she wouldn't, because she does such a good job. But I understand," McCoy said.
State Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, said the energy program would help Unalakleet and other rural areas get through the winter more easily.
The bill, sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, makes permanent the expansion of a power cost equalization program adopted last year by the Legislature.
Nearly 80,000 people in 200 rural communities are served by the program, the governor's office said.
Palin was accompanied by her husband Todd, who has visited dozens of times on his snowmachine. She joked that it was his first trip to Unalakleet by plane, and the first time it was not covered in snow.