An award-winning Mat-Su teacher making his first bid for elective office on Tuesday filed to run for Alaska lieutenant governor. He earlier had filed a letter of intent, allowing him to test the waters and raise money, but now he's a candidate.
Bob Williams, 48, grew up in Palmer and calls himself a lifelong Alaskan. His father came up in 1949 and ran a one-man sawmill outside of Palmer. His mother was a nurse.
Williams said he has lived out of Alaska just twice, during a two-year Peace Corps stint in Gambia, in West Africa, and another two-years earning his master's degree at Columbia University while teaching full-time in New York City. His undergraduate degree is in petroleum engineering from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and he worked two college summers as a roustabout in Cook Inlet.
He's a Colony High School math teacher and was the 2009 Alaska teacher of the year. He just finished a two-year stint as president of the Alaska Council of Teachers of Mathematics. He intends to keep teaching and will campaign nights and weekends.
Williams said he is running to change the course of the state. He's particularly concerned about the oil-tax cuts passed this year. Tax-cut supporters, including Gov. Sean Parnell, say they are trying to curb a long-running decline in production.
"It doesn't make sense to a lot of people including myself ... where you could flat-fund education for a number of years while at the same time giving $1 billion to oil companies without any accountability at all," Williams said.
The lieutenant governor oversees the state Division of Elections but has few other official duties.
So what could he actually accomplish?
"I had a really good meeting with (former Lt. Gov.) Fran Ulmer and also with Lt. Gov. (Joe) Garcia of Colorado. They both said the same thing. If you can collaborate and partner with the governor, you can really increase the effectiveness of the executive branch, and you have the bully pulpit of the office," Williams said.
Voting rights is an area that he would push for, he said. He opposes a legislative proposal that generally would require voters to show photo ID at the polls.
So far, he's the only announced Democrat running for lieutenant governor. There's not yet an announced Democratic candidate for governor though several state legislators are considering a run. On the Republican side, Gov. Sean Parnell is seeking a second full term and two Republicans have announced they want to be his lieutenant: Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and state Sen. Lesil McGuire.
Reach Lisa Demer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4390.
By LISA DEMER