Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New School Board members sworn in

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JUNEAU - In his last move as Juneau School Board president, Bill Peters called for his and School Board member Mary Becker's replacements to step forward and be sworn in as new members of the Juneau School Board on Tuesday.

Destiny Sargeant and JoAnne Bell-Graves raised their right hands and swore to protect the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the charter of the city before promising to faithfully discharge their duties as members of the School Board. They were sworn in by Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins.

School Board member Andi Story replaced Peters as president.

New School Board officers elected

JUNEAU - By unanimous consent, Juneau School Board member Andi Story was elected as new president of the School Board on Tuesday during the board's regular meeting. Story said she was honored by the support.

Story served as vice president during the last year.

School Board member Phyllis Carlson was elected vice president of the eight-member board through the same method of unanimous consent.

Sean O'Brien nominated both Story and Carlson to their new posts after Story called for nominations.

Second round of dividends delivered

JUNEAU - More 2007 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends are heading for the bank accounts of eligible residents.

About 186,000 Alaskans will get their $1,654 dividends by direct deposit on Wednesday, two weeks after 306,000 dividends were sent to Alaskans who signed up online in January.

The two rounds of direct deposits account for more than 81 percent of this year's dividends, said Karen Lechner of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division in the Department of Revenue.

The balance of more than 100,000 dividends will begin going out in the mail Nov. 13.

Linehan says she won't testify in trial

ANCHORAGE - Mechele Linehan, a former exotic dancer who is accused of murder, said she's chosen not to testify in her trial.

"I've had the last year to think about it," she told State Superior Court Judge Philip Volland on Monday after he asked if she had had enough time to make the decision.

That leaves the defense to rest its case after two days of testimony.

Linehan was charged with first-degree murder in October 2006. Prosecutors say she and another man murdered roommate Kent Leppink in 1996 for a $1 million life insurance payout that they mistakenly believed she would get.

John Carlin, a steelworker from New Jersey, was convicted of being the shooter six months ago.

Also on Monday, the defense called retired Alaska State Trooper Dallas Massie, who is recorded on tape asking Linehan to tell him what she knew.

Jurors listened to the interview in which Linehan sobs after hearing of Leppink's violent death. It was the first time jurors heard Linehan's voice in the trial.

Under cross examination by prosecutor Pat Gullufsen, Massie said he believed Linehan's sobs "lacked a bit of sincerity."

The prosecution and defense are expected to make closing arguments today.

Athabascan leader David Salmon buried

CHALKYITSIK - The Rev. David Salmon, first traditional chief of the Athabascan people and a widely respected spiritual leader, was buried Monday near his home in Chalkyitsik.

Salmon died last week after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 95 years old.

His grave, beneath tall spruce trees, is in a small hilltop cemetery next to the burial site of his wife, Sarah.

Hundreds of mourners flew to the small Interior community from villages and towns around the state to pay their respects to Salmon. A dozen white-gowned Episcopal ministers gave final blessings after Salmon's handmade wooden coffin was lowered into the ground.

Salmon was an ordained Episcopal minister and had been the Interior's first traditional chief since 2003. The position is an honorary, nonpolitical office and is held in high esteem.

"We've seen some great times in Chalkyitsik because of this man," his grandson, state Rep. Woodie Salmon, said. "His spirit lifted up a lot of people. He was the rock of this town."

The Gwich'in elder was well-known for his work ethic and traditional toolmaking skills, and he was renown for his ministering and counsel.

Granddaughter Patricia Salmon told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that more than 200 telephone calls have come in from around the state and the Lower 48 following Salmon's death at his home last week.

Salmon died 10 days before the opening of the 2007 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, where he was scheduled to address delegates.

"He was a very humble, humble individual. He was a very giving man," said Steve Ginnis, former Tanana Chiefs president. "He wanted no fanfare, recognition or praise but to have us praise the Lord."

Soldier found dead at Fort Richardson

FORT RICHARDSON - Army officials say a soldier found dead at Fort Richardson was Private Shauna L. Ward of Glendale, Ariz.

Ward's body was found early Monday in her barracks room on the post.

Officials say Ward was a chemical operations specialist who was assigned to Fort Richardson last November.

She was assigned to the 95th Chemical Company, Arctic Military Police Battalion, Arctic Support Brigade.

The cause of the death is under investigation.

Fort Wainwright unit to deploy to Iraq

FORT WAINWRIGHT - Army officials say an aviation unit stationed at Fort Wainwright will soon be deployed to Iraq.

Leaving next month will be about 130 soldiers from U.S. Army Alaska's aviation unit.

Officials say the deployment will last about nine months.

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