Alaska’s Congressional delegation had much to celebrate as 2017 drew to a close. A bill that included the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploratory drilling was signed by the President after an ongoing effort to do so for some four decades.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan also opened their new offices in Soldotna at that Blazy Mall and hosted an open house for the public to visit the new location.
Sen. Dan Sullivan was able to visit live with community members who turned out for the event via a video teleconferencing system known as VTC. The audio and visual media allowed face to face communication as clear and instantaneously as if the Senator was in the next room.
Sullivan expressed his pleasure and excitement on the opening of ANWR and credited the success of the final bill to the tireless work of his predecessors that began with Senators Ted Stevens, Frank Murkowski and Congressman Don Young. He also praised the effort of Alaska’s senior Senator Lisa Murkowski who not only chaired the Senate Energy &Natural Resources Committee but also sat on the conference committee that resolved the House &Senate versions of the tax reform bill that included the opening of ANWR.
“She fought long and hard in conference to keep ANWR in that Bill and Alaskans will be reaping the benefits of her work for decades to come,” said Sullivan.
At the new Soldotna office Michelle Blackwell, who has been the local special assistant to Sen. Murkowski since 2011, will continue to meet the needs of constituents. Elaina Spraker is Sen. Dan Sullivan’s field director on the Peninsula.
“We’ve excited to be located on the Sterling Highway where folks from Homer, Ninilchik and Kasilof can pop in easily and come and visit us with whatever issues they have that are federal government related. Whether IRS, Social Security or Veterans issues we are the place to visit and we’re here to serve you,” Spraker told the Dispatch in an interview.
“It’s incredibly challenging to represent a state that is one-fifth the entire land mass of the United States. The way the system is set up is we are the boots on the ground and the Senator cannot be everywhere every minute of the day and he goes back and forth between D.C. and Alaska and we are here to work for him and all Alaskans that he represents,” said Spraker.
There are several ways to reach out the Alaskan delegation says Blackwell.
“They can share a public opinion through us and that goes directly to the Senators, but if they have an issue with a federal agency that they need assistance with we are available to work directly through our privacy act release form that folks can complete and turn into us so we can have a written consent from constituents to talk to agencies on their behalf. Those agencies cover the gamut at the federal level from the Social Security administration to the VA and IRS to the State Department and that is one of the main constituent services we provide here at the regional offices,” said Blackwell.
“We are information seekers, that’s part of our job is getting the truth and direct information and separating the facts from hearsay. We are in and out of the office a lot and are only one person offices so if you come by and we are out please message us, call us and we will always get back to you. We take seriously and passionately our jobs of serving the Senators constituents all year long.”