Dunleavy to become first governor sworn in above Arctic Circle
Alaska made national headlines following the magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Friday. On Monday, the state will be back in the spotlight, this time, for the swearing-in of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy.
While Dunleavy originally planned on having his swearing in in the village of Noorvik, a town of just over 600 people, his plane was diverted to Kotzebue due to weather and plans are being made for him to be sworn in there.
The event was slated to take place in the village school, named after Dunleavy's late father in law, Richard Aqqaluk Newlin Sr.
While Friday's quake didn't derail plans for Dunleavy, it did for sitting governor, Bill Walker.
Walker had planned to attend the ceremony, but announced Sunday that he would no longer be able to make the trip because of the aftermath from Friday's quake.
"The Lieutenant Governor and I will remain in Anchorage to assist with the re-opening of state facilities and damaged infrastructure," Walker said in a statement Sunday afternoon.
Volunteers and school staff spent much of Sunday preparing, with many excited about what the attention on their town could mean for its future.
"I mean, that's going to put Noorvik on the map. You know, I thought about it and I said 'I bet there's some folks out there Googling where Noorvik is at,'" said Vern Cleveland, Noorvik's mayor.
Noorvik sits about 54 miles to the east of Koztebue, a hub village in the Northwest Arctic Borough. In Inupiaq, Noorvik means "a place that is moved to."
"People move from different areas to Noorvik, like there's people from Deering," Cleveland explained. "There's other folks from Buckland and Selawik."
Noorvik is rich in caribou and fish, and many depend on what the land provides for subsistence. The village of just over 600 people is expected to double in size for Dunleavy's swearing-in. Village police are increasing security, adding officers and working longer shifts.
"We've never had a governor swearing-in before, this is something new, we don't know how many people will be here," explained Paul Brown, a village police officer on patrol ahead of the event.
With the spotlight on rural Alaska, many are hoping the governor will take note of the challenges that come along with daily life.
"I think the reason Mike Dunleavy is swearing in in Noorvik is to bring more focus to rural Alaska people. And it makes us feel important, more important, more recognized by the state," Brown said.
Mayor Cleveland says he's hoping for more funding.
"I hope that he looks at us and thinks that we're the ones that need the help the most. In our rural areas because the high cost of living, in our area, it's very tremendously high," Cleveland said.
KTVA will carry special coverage of the swearing-in ceremony Monday morning from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on KTVA Channel 11, GCI Channel 907, as well as KTVA.com and KTVA's Facebook page.
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