Longtime lawmaker announces departure

Posted: Sunday, March 26, 2000

One of the most visible of Kenai Peninsula public figures is getting ready to disappear from the scene -- if only briefly.

Rep. Gail Phillips, R-Homer, has officially announced that she will not seek re-election to her District 7 seat in November. The five-term lawmaker, whose departure has been rumored for months, made the announcement Saturday afternoon in Homer on the deck of the Land's End resort.

"I wanted to go down and thank the people of Homer for allowing me to represent them all these years," she said, hinting that she would not be out of public life for long.

Phillips' 10 years in the Legislature have been active ones. In eight of those years, she had the benefit of working within the majority, serving one term as majority leader and two as speaker of the house. She said her six years serving in leadership positions were the highlight of her tenure in the Legislature.

"That has been an incredible experience. We've made some great progress," she said, listing tort, education and welfare reforms as among the most significant achievements.

Despite her own record, Phillips said her time in the Legislature was not without one major disappointment.

"The thing that bothered me the most and caused me some personal sadness is not getting a solution to subsistence," she said, of the recent federal takeover of state fisheries.

Phillips said her announcement came before the end of the legislative session in May because she wanted to give others ample opportunity to consider running for her seat. To date, only borough assembly member Drew Scalzi, a Republican, has filed for the District 7 seat. Joni Whitmore, who has lost twice to Phillips, also is considering a third bid for the seat.

Phillips, 55, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2002 or for the Senate District D seat now held by John Torgerson, R-Kasilof. But for now, she is playing her cards close to her chest, although she said she is eager to stay in public life.

"I still have too much to do," said Phillips, who prior to her legislative stint served on both the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly and Homer City Council. "But I'll save that (announcement) until a little later."

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