Craig Fleener, Gwich’in Athabascan, at the AFN Convention. Fleener is running for Lt. Governor of Alaska with Governor candidate Bill Walker.

Fleener Running for Alaska Lt. Gov. – ‘One of the Most Boring Jobs’

Richard Walker

Political blogger Amanda Coyne, founder of the Alaska Dispatch, referred to the Alaska lieutenant governor’s office as “one of the most boring jobs in state government and not that much more exciting to report on.”

The lieutenant governor’s responsibilities include supervising elections, administering the citizens’ initiative process, filing administrative regulations, commissioning public notaries, authenticating signatures of state officials, and protecting the state seal from unauthorized commercial use. (In May, Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, North Carolina, asked 582 Alaska voters if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the current lieutenant governor; 36 percent responded “not sure”).

Craig Fleener wants to make the job a more dynamic force in Alaska life.

Fleener, Gwich’in Athabascan, is an independent candidate for Alaska lieutenant governor. He’s running on a ticket with former Valdez mayor Bill Walker, a lawyer specializing in oil, gas and municipal law.

Should they win, Walker is expected to assign Fleener to positions where he can put to work his experience in Arctic policy, military and veterans affairs, Alaska Native issues, and wildlife and fisheries management.

That’s what Fleener said he asked for when Walker asked him to run. He said they were introduced in September 2013 by a mutual friend. “We didn’t talk politics initially, we just started talking,” Fleener said. They found they thought alike on numerous issues; they met again and Walker asked Fleener to join him. Fleener resigned as state deputy fish and game commissioner in October and the campaign was on.

Should they win, it would be the first time the governor and lieutenant governor were both Alaska-born. Fleener would be the second Alaska Native to serve as lieutenant governor. (Loren Leman, from Ninilchik, was lieutenant governor from 2002-06).

Fleener, 47, brings some credentials to the campaign. He has a graduate degree in intelligence studies from American Public University and an undergraduate degree in natural resources management from University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

He helped develop the circumpolar biodiversity monitoring program for the organization Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, which is comprised of representatives of eight nations. He co-chaired the Yukon River Panel, established by treaty between the U.S. and Canada to manage the river’s salmon population; and chaired Gwich’in Council International, a non-profit established to ensure all regions of the Gwich'in Nation have a role in the development of policies that relate to the Circumpolar Arctic. He also chaired a U.S. Interior Department advisory council on subsistence in Alaska’s Eastern Interior.

Fleener served on the Alaska Board of Game, Alaska Native Health Board, and on the Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Council. He served as deputy mayor of Fort Yukon and as wildlife biologist and executive director of the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments. He is a major in the U.S. Air Force Alaska Air National Guard. He has four grown children and resides in Anchorage with his wife, Uliana, and their daughter, Sophia.

The general election is November 4; as independents, Walker and Fleener will skip the August 19 primary. All told, there are eight candidates for governor, including the incumbent, Sean Parnell, Republican; and Democrat Byron Mallott, an Alaska Native who served as mayor of Yakutat and Juneau.

Fleener is one of six candidates for lieutenant governor.


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