I was as surprised as anyone on July 3 when I heard that Gov. Sarah Palin was going to announce her resignation. I was at Costco, getting supplies for the impending Independence Day festivities, when I got a call telling me a press conference was going to take place in Wasilla within the hour. And that prognostication was borne out very quickly; by the time I got home, footage of the governor was on multiple television stations.
I watched the governor's speech and listened to what she said. I like Palin as a person, and her cheerful demeanor was fully evident as she spoke about stepping down. I also admire Palin as a chief executive, and I began to think about what she has done over the course of her time as governor of Alaska.
Palin came to office with some specific goals, some of which she has accomplished outright, others which she has advanced appreciably along the spectrum from inception to completion. The Petroleum Profits Tax revisions were passed in time to help Alaskans reap unprecedented financial gains from our most marketable natural resource, and also in the wake of an ethics scandal that caused some Alaskans to doubt the fundamental integrity of state government.
The debate about the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act resulted in legislation that has advanced the progress about this mega-project to a point I at times wondered if I'd ever see in my lifetime. Exxon has now signed on to work with TransCanada, and BP and ConocoPhillips are displaying vocal, tangible plans to get the gas to market. Palin has submitted reasonable, fiscally-prudent capital and operating budgets to the Legislature, which have been scrutinized and ultimately passed largely in the form she proposed.
Palin has not always been as supportive of Juneau's role as Alaska's capital city as her predecessors, but she has clearly done some good things for us. She has unwaveringly supported the Kensington Gold Mine, which is now closer than ever to opening and bolstering our economy at a most crucial point in time.
Palin has thoughtfully considered the costs and benefits of the Lynn Canal Highway, and come down in favor of the project, also a key to our bright future. When Sen. Kim Elton resigned from the state Senate, Palin took the time to listen to a wide variety of Juneau voices in selecting the right person to serve out his term. In Sen. Dennis Egan, Juneau residents enjoy a qualified experienced leader who believes in responsible resource development.
As I got over my initial shock at Palin's decision to resign from office, I thought of what her detractors would say, and realized it would be pretty much anything and everything bad that popped into their minds. Her decision to resign placed her on one side of an unwinnable argument: Those who hated her as governor now hate her for resigning. I can't fault her for not putting too much thought into that camp's reaction in making her decision.
I know Palin was doing a great job leading our state, so it is fair for me to ask: What next? Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell is sometimes derided for not being a spry or charismatic enough politician. Parnell is extremely intelligent, well-educated and unarguably qualified to be governor of Alaska. To the extent that one could criticize Palin for quitting her job early, the validity of such criticism hinges on the matter of succession, and in Parnell the negative questions are strongly rebutted. Palin is leaving Alaska in good hands, and I look forward to Parnell's time in office.
The biggest question still lingering: What next for Sarah Palin? I simply don't know, but I do know she is intelligent and capable. When she turns her energy and attention to something, she is a formidable force. I don't know that I'd have recommended that she take all the steps she has during the past year, but I wasn't asked. Palin has the ability and resources, personally and in her close circle of advisers, to continue to take on challenging goals and achieve them.
I hope she gives herself a chance to rest a little after everything she's been through recently, because she has certainly earned it. I also think the talents she so clearly displays need not be put to use on any one else's time frame but her own. As just one Alaskan, I offer up my sincere thanks and appreciation for her service as governor, and wish her all the best for her and her family's future.
Ben Brown is an attorney living in Juneau.