My Turn: Peace Corps volunteer, permanent Alaskan

Posted: Sunday, October 21, 2001

I was born and raised in Fairbanks, attended college in Minnesota, and then served as an aide to U.S. Sen. Murkowski. Currently, I am a Peace Corps volunteer in the central highlands of Guatemala.

I recently received a notice for jury duty at my home of residence in Fairbanks. My mother called the local court building on my behalf to tell them that I would not be able to appear for jury duty because of my Peace Corps service. A week later, I received a letter from the court building saying that I was exempt from serving jury duty because I "am not an Alaska resident." This phrase pains me greatly because I am most definitely an Alaska resident. I have held many jobs in my home town during high school and in between college semesters. I hold an Alaska driver's license, do not claim residency status in any other place besides Alaska, and accept all my postal mail in Fairbanks. I have never missed a local or state election in my home district even though I have had to vote by absentee ballot while at college and as a volunteer in Guatemala. Additionally, my career plans are to continue my education and then return to Alaska to become an active member of my community.

As many of you are already aware, since 2000, Peace Corps volunteers and Olympic athletes from Alaska have been denied the Permanent Fund dividend check. Should those Alaska residents who choose to volunteer, and represent their state in sports be denied the Permanent Fund dividend check when in fact these residents display excellence in both public service and international competition? And after all, how many Alaskan Peace Corps volunteers and Olympic athletes exist? I don't know, but I would guess that they don't swallow a large portion of the funds, even though they are deserving residents. The state Legislature should not punish Alaskans for becoming volunteers and exceptional athletes.

I ask that the state Legislature change the current law that excludes Peace Corps volunteers and Olympic athletes from the Permanent Fund dividend check.

When visitors enter my one-room house in Guatemala, the first comment I usually hear is, "What a beautiful blue and gold flag you have hanging on your wall! Where is it from?"

With pride I reply, "the 49th state Alaska!"



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