Rep. Gara announces retirement from Legislature
House Rep. Les Gara announced Tuesday in a constituent newsletter that he will not run for re-election, closing out a political career that began in 2003.
The Anchorage Democrat makes his decision four days after the deadline to file for office. On Tuesday morning, he emailed a newsletter to constituents.
“I’ve chosen, after going back and forth many times, not to run for re-election. It was a hard decision. Waking up every morning knowing you have the chance, and obligation, to try to make someone's life better is an amazing privilege. Many of you know this from your own jobs.”
Gara closes out his career as House Finance Committee vice chair who ushered changes to the state’s foster care system.
In the waning days of the legislative session that ended early May 18, Gara secured broad support to establish new caseworker standards in the Office of Children’s Services.
The bill places such limits as the average statewide caseload limit not exceeding 13 per worker. It also mandates six weeks of training for new caseworkers and further limits their caseloads.
A few days after session ended, Gara said excessive workloads have led to caseworker turnover of nearly 50 percent.
“Children and families are going to be damaged when you have caseworkers that have overwhelming caseloads,” said Gara, who reflected on his own positive foster care experiences while growing up in Massachusetts. “So new caseworkers come, they see the overwhelming caseloads. They come in, they leave. They come in they leave."
Gara continued, “And there is nobody who knows the children or knows the families. And the caseworkers make mistakes. Just like a three-person basketball team is just not going to win. You’re going to lose every game.”
Gara’s bill cleared the Senate 18-0 and the House 37-1. It still needs Gov. Bill Walker's signature.
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