Alaska’s newest state senator, Mike Shower, was sworn in on Monday. His district stretches from the Northern Susitna Valley to Whittier and Valdez. KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with Senator Shower about his first few days in office, and what his constituents can expect going forward.
Senator Mike Shower has been in office for about one week. Talking by phone from Juneau, he says he would have laughed at anyone who suggested a month ago that he would be in his current office. After a back-and-forth between Senate Republicans and Governor Bill Walker, the party submitted a new list of four potential replacements for Mike Dunleavy, who resigned last month. Shower was one of the people on that new list.
“I was asked, ‘Do you want to go ahead throw your name back in the hat?’ And I’m like, ‘It’ll never happen. Sure, go ahead, put my name in.’ That weekend, I got a call from the governor’s office going, ‘He’d like to interview you tomorrow for an appointment….’ Apparently I must have done well enough in that interview that he was happy to throw my name out, and next thing you know I’m sitting here a week later.”
Mike Shower is a twenty-year Air Force veteran who retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He says he initially fell in love with Alaska after a childhood trip to the state. He has since served multiple tours of duty as a fighter pilot, and he and his wife decided that Alaska would continue to be their home after his retirement from the Air Force.
Currently employed as a pilot for FedEx, Senator Shower still uses some military analogies, such as describing the learning curve for a relative outsider’s first week in Juneau.
“It’s kind of like taking an F-22 out of Elmendorf and going straight up. My learning curve is exactly ninety degrees vertical, because there is no break right now.”
As part of that learning curve, Shower says he is working long hours to catch up on everything from legislation and issues to Senate procedure. For that reason, he is willing to talk about broad policy ideas, but needs more information to get into details.
There are three issues that Senator Shower is focusing on, and they overlap with much of the discussion already happening in the capitol building.
On the budget, Shower says he would prefer if the state could avoid levying individual taxes on Alaskans.
“I would love to see us not taxed of any sort, if possible, because I don’t think that’s best for our economy, and jobs are important. You know, people have to survive, and I don’t think a tax is necessarily the best way to handle that.”
Senator Shower also says he is interested in preserving the Permanent Fund Dividend.
“I would like to see the PFD protected, because that’s something a lot of people have come to expect, especially folks in the lower income bracket, that’s a big deal to them, but it’s also part of the share of the state’s wealth with the people of Alaska.”
Crime has been a hot topic around the state in the last year, and Shower says he also wants to focus on ways to reduce its impact on his constituents.
“Figuring out a way where I can try to get involved in that process, to at least figure out what can be done to add something to, for example, deal with the repeat offenders who keep getting let out over and over again, because you hear about that all the time.”
As of now, Senator Shower has not joined the Republican-led majority caucus. His predecessor, Mike Dunleavy, left the caucus over a vote on the state budget, on which members are bound to vote as a bloc. As with legislative issues, he says he wants to gather more information and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.
“Before I can make a decision to join, and anything that might or might not bind me to, I need to do as much research as I can to make sure that, at the end of the day, I’m comfortable with what I vote yes or no on, and that I can answer to the people in the district.”
Similarly, Shower is not sure whether he is going to run for re-election for Senate Seat E. He says serving in the Senate means time away from his piloting job, and a financial impact on his family. After spending some time in Juneau, he plans to decide on whether to compete in the Republican primary to retain his seat.
“You know, maybe after a month here I’ll go, ‘Maybe I can make a difference…’ Plus there’s also the fact of, can I do two jobs at once and be effective? I don’t know about that either.”
Senator Shower will have time to consider his choice, since the deadline to file for the primary is June 1st. In the meantime, he intends to continue getting caught up on the myriad bills and issues before the legislature.