Veteran legislator Ben Grussendorf announces retirement

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Veteran state Rep. Ben Grussendorf of Sitka announced Wednesday he will not seek another term in November.

The former House speaker said in a floor speech he wants to build a cabin, spend some time with his old dog and perhaps train a new puppy.

''Mr. Speaker, I think it's time for a person like me to think about taking a walkabout,'' Grussendorf said.

The Democrat is known for dry wit and colorful but concise comments on legislation. Two years ago he described a colleague's subsistence bill as the largest pile of bear scat he had ever seen.

Grussendorf announced his retirement on his 58th birthday. He noted he has spent 20 birthdays in the House.

''When you think about it, that means I spent 10 years of my life in Juneau,'' Grussendorf said.

He said he regretted the absence Wednesday in the House of Rep. Ramona Barnes, R-Anchorage, the senior Republican member. Barnes, first elected in 1978, and Grussendorf often provide institutional history as well as counterpoints to each other on legislation.

''She's probably humored me longer than most of you,'' Grussendorf said. ''I thank you for humoring me, the number of years that you have, and it's been a grand ride.''

He said he's encouraging the mayor of Sitka, Stan Filler, to replace him. If Filler is elected but doesn't like the job, Grussendorf said, he may ask voters to send him back.

''I hope he likes it,'' Grussendorf said.

Grussendorf was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has lived in Sitka since 1967. He served two terms as mayor of Sitka.

Voters sent him to the House in 1980.

He served three terms as Speaker from 1985-88 and again in 1991-92.

Fellow representatives responded to Grussendorf's announcement with a prolonged standing ovation.

''I think the state has been honored these many years with your service,'' said Speaker Brian Porter, R-Anchorage.

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