Thursday, January 19, 2023

Sign in / Join


Home  Columns  Fritz Pettyjohn: Josiah Patkotak is just right for Speaker Pro Tem

Fritz Pettyjohn: Josiah Patkotak is just right for Speaker Pro Tem


 Suzanne Downing


January 17, 2023



After Governor Bill Sheffield and Justice Jay Rabinowitz combined to gerrymander me out of my State Senate seat, I ran for the State House in 1984, hoping to figure out a way to get revenge. 

I got elected, but the House Republican minority of the 14th Alaska Legislature had around 14 members, and we were completely ineffective.

Sitka’s Rep. Ben Grussendorf was the Democratic Speaker, but he was only a figurehead. The power in the House was Finance Chair Al Adams of Kotzebue. 

In the 13th Legislature, Al had been Finance Committee chair in a Republican organization. R’s and D’s didn’t mean anything to Al.  He was in Juneau for his people, the Alaska Natives. He led the  six members of the Bush Caucus, and they called the shots.

I was from South Anchorage, originally from California, and I didn’t have any experience with Alaska Natives. I quickly learned that they didn’t allow personal ambition or vanity to interfere with what was good for the group. They were communal, and Al was a prime example.

He was a brilliant guy, and he worked his butt off. He never showed any ego, and was as mild mannered and kind as a guy could be.  Everybody loved and respected Al. When I left the Legislature I was proud to call him a friend.

Right now the Alaska House is adrift, with no one able to form a majority organization. But there apparently is one legislator who has the potential to bring people together – Josiah Patkotak from the North Slope.

Al Adams didn’t just serve the Native people of Alaska.  He served the whole state.  In his spirit, perhaps Josiah should step forward and take a leadership role.  At least for the next two years.

I never got my revenge on Jay Rabinowitz, but I played a significant role in taking Bill Sheffield down.  Day after day I raised hell on the House floor, demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate his corruption.  His Attorney General, Norm Gorsuch, was an honorable guy, and he knew I was right under the law.  When he did as I was demanding, and appointed Dan Hickey, the die was cast.  We almost impeached Sheffield, and he was resoundingly defeated in the 1986 Democratic primary.

Fritz Pettyjohn blogs at

Share this:

Like this:

Previous articleAlaska LGBTQ advocacy group pushes Alaska children toward financial aid for puberty-blocking hormonesAl

Next articleTrain meets avalanche south of Girdwood

Suzanne Downing

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Jimbob Originally from CA says it all.Reply
  2. Robert Schenker Fritz, I agree that the young man from the place formerly called Barrow would be a good choice for SpeakerI have an observation however about your feud with Gov Sheffield, your crippling of him led to the election of “The High Plains Drifter” how did that work out for you? Also, if memory serves, Bill Sheffield is the only Gov in my memory who actually cut State Spending, a conservative thing to do if memory serves.
    Your thoughts in reply will be appreciated.Reply
    • Fritz Pettyjohn He did cut state spending and wasn’t a bad Governor. But he was in bed with the thieves who were looting the North Slope Borough. When reform NSB Mayor George Ahmaogak was elected in 1984, Sheffield refused to meet with him when he came to Juneau.
      Plus, Sheffield screwed me. I had to get payback. Politics ain’t beanbag.Reply
    • Bill Yankee That High Plains Drifter sure had the oil folks in a panic when that tanker went aground in PWS Robert. Things eventually worked themselves out after some called for enormous amounts of dispersants to be used to sink that oil and even some called for bombing the spill, hoping the fire would remove large amounts.Reply
  3. Trouser Bark There’s one sentence in this article to support the title. The rest of it is all about me Me mE MEMeeeeeee.Same as your prior article. This kind of thing might be interesting to some in a ‘welcome to 1980’ sort of way but the disingenuous titling could be done without.Reply
    • Robert Schenker Trouser Bark, Despite your comment having the “ring” of truth, I submit Fritz’s bit makes for amusing reading, you know, going back and talking about the past is fun, ( if not informative).
      It occurs to me that knowing the past helps us understand the present and out how we got so screwed up?P.S. Fritz says Sheffield screwed him over, I wonder if Fritz was a Poker Player back in the day. Seems Sheffield had some doozy card games, attended by elected honchos and other power players. I wish Fritz would elaborate.Reply
  4. NoLegs Good piece, Fritz, and accurate. I’m not too sure Airliss Sturgulewski, a RINO, would have given you many kudos if you had remained in the Senate. Jack Coghill extracted a little revenge on her in 1990. The House minority was a safe place for you. As to Al Adams, that’s tricky territory. How did Al end up with all of those beautiful homes and luxury vacations to Maui? I wasn’t aware that the salary of House Finance Chair was so lucrative. Adams was a dictator because the Republican majority allowed it. And the lone Libertarian at the time, Andre Marrou, wasn’t allowed to even speak up in Adam’s committee hearings. In fact, Adams took away funding for the LIO in Marrou’s district. I guess my recollections if Adams aren’t quite the same as yours.Reply


Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Support Must Read Alaska

A force for good. Donate $100 today.

Share this:

Like this:

$$5.00$20.00$50.00$100.00$250.00$500.00Custom AmountMake this donation every dayweekmonthquarteryearPersonal Info

 Make this an anonymous donation. 

Donation Total:$100.00

About us

Must Read Alaska is news of people, politics, policy, culture, and happenings in Alaska. It is edited by Suzanne Downing, who first landed in Alaska in 1969, and has called it home ever since.

200 W. 34th Ave. #220,
Anchorage, AK 99503

The latest

Who done it: Worst ‘betrayal of trust,’ but investigators didn’t find Supreme Court’s leaker of Dobbs decision

THE 907 January 19, 2023

Update: Polar bear savaged mom and toddler as they walked through storm to clinic in Wales

THE 907 January 19, 2023

Hesitancy contagion? A measurable drop in flu shots administered in Alaska this year revealed in state charts

THE 907 January 19, 2023

© Must Read Alaska

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s