Greeting the governor

Juneau residents turn out in droves for Parnell's picnic

Posted: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cars were parked a mile away, the food line stretched toward the baseball field and Sandy Beach filled with people as more than a thousand Juneau residents showed up Friday to attend a picnic hosted by Gov. Sean Parnell.

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Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

The theme of the picnic was reconciliation after years of former Gov. Sarah Palin living and working in the Anchorage area. Parnell spent most of his time shaking hands, speaking with residents and posing for photos, but he found time to serve hot dogs alongside state commissioners.

"I want you to know something - it is not the governor's picnic, it is the governor's first annual capital city picnic," Parnell said.

Later, Parnell said, "I just want to say I look forward to continuing this relationship and continuing this picnic for years to come."

Parnell talked about the time he'd spent in Juneau as a state legislator and lieutenant governor. He even addressed the Kensington mine in his short speech.

"It's wonderful to be able to walk down the beach and see what's left of the Treadwelll mine, but it's also great to see some of Juneau and Southeast's future being made with the Kensington mine. (I'm) really thankful that we've got those jobs coming back here, too."

There were loud cheers and laughs while Parnell talked, filling the air with a positive vibe despite overcast skies.

"He's off on the right foot, most definitely. And I mean Juneau is a very welcoming place and, if he gives us half a chance, he'll see what kind of community this is. I think he already knows, and it's good to see that he's as friendly as I think the rest of Juneau is," Rich Thibodeau said.

"I'm very excited to see this many Juneauites here to support a governor who wants to be in Juneau. I think it shows that Juneau's really behind somebody who's going to show an interest in the community," Dan Bruce said.

"I'm here to express my appreciation to the governor for being here and for him extending sort of a olive branch; after what we've been through, it's a breath of fresh air," said Mary Miller. "I'm glad he's here and I hope it's a sincere extension of his hand to Juneau."

Miller said one of the most disappointing things about the Palin administration was seeing the Governor's Mansion empty. "I hope (Parnell) turns the lights on in the mansion once again," she said.

"There's a lot of state workers (here)," said Melehoko Maake. "It shows, like (Miller) said, bring the capital back home and we're really dependent on those jobs. I'm a state worker and we want the jobs to stay here. And (I) came here in support of him, hoping that that's the case."

"I'm really impressed by the turnout," Maake said, comparing the traffic to the Fourth of July. Organizers purchased 1,600 hot dogs for the event and halfway through had nearly run out.

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