North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson will resign effective Saturday from the Alaska Legislature after more than a decade serving as the District 3 representative.
Wilson made the announcement Friday afternoon during a House floor session, noting she will be taking a position with the Office of Children's Services as a policy adviser for Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.
"I have been given an opportunity to assist families in OCS. As many of you know, I have fought cases through the Office of Children's Services, advocating for families, helping them through it, and it's been really difficult on this side of it because most of what we [the Legislature] deal with is legislation, and as most of you know I don't think we need more legislation," Wilson said during her announcement.
Wilson's announcement was followed by a collection of speeches from her fellow representatives commending her work in the House. Healy Republican Rep. Dave Talerico was among those.
"I don't know of anyone who works harder than Tammie, and we will miss her," he said on the floor.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, shared similar sentiments.
“For more than a decade, Tammie Wilson gave her all in the Legislature and was a very fierce advocate for the people of North Pole," Edgmon said. "I wish Tammie and her family all the best as she takes on a new position, and I look forward to working with her in her new role at the Office of Children’s Services.”
Wilson served in the House Majority Coalition last session before returning to the House Republican Minority at the end of the second special session due to budgetary disputes with the majority caucus. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, commended Wilson on her service to the state.
“I want to thank Rep. Wilson for her service to Alaska and to the caucus,” he said. “Her years of experience have been an asset to our group and her knowledge on the process will be sorely missed.”
In a Friday evening news release, Crum celebrated Wilson's hiring.
“We look forward to having Ms. Wilson in this policy adviser role, where she will act as a resource for parents and help support family resiliency by helping families navigate the child welfare system and working with OCS on positive reform," Crum said. "She has spent many years working on child welfare issues and has become a known and trusted figure across the state that will tirelessly work to keep families strong. Having Ms. Wilson in this position will allow us to focus on evaluating and working to build up community support options so Alaskan families can grow ever more resilient.”
Wilson's resignation opens up her District 3 House seat for appointment by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The governor will be required to pick a replacement from a list forwarded by the District 3 Republicans organization, after which House Republicans will vote to approve or reject Dunleavy's selection.
This will be Dunleavy's third opportunity to appoint someone to the House. The governor appointed Eagle River Republican Rep. Sharon Jackson to the empty District 13 seat last session to replace fellow Republican Nancy Dahlstrom, who gave up her newly elected House seat to become Department of Corrections commissioner.
Dunleavy also appointed Anchorage Republican Rep. Mel Gillis to fill the District 25 seat left empty when Sen. Josh Revak joined the Senate to replace the late Sen. Chris Birch.
Fellow North Pole Republican Sen. John Coghill said the process will present some interesting opportunities.
"There are a lot of open questions about who would step up, and there are some good candidates, I'm sure," Coghill said.
Coghill and Wilson have served the North Pole area together for more than a decade.
"We've always got to make personal choices here; she got offered an opportunity to work in an area where she's passionate," Coghill said. "I'm going to be supportive where I can for her. It's a disappointment to many people who elected her, but it's no surprise. This is an area where she's been deeply immersed trying to find solutions."
Wilson has had a long and often contentious relationship with the OCS, accusing the state of "legal kidnapping" in 2016.
Now, Wilson noted during her Friday floor speech, she will have the opportunity she has always wanted to change the system from within.
"I think we need to fix the problem, follow the policies and procedures. There are times that the Office of Children's Services needs to step in, but most of the time we just need to surround our families with the resources that they truly need, and that's the opportunity that I've been given, something that I think I've been doing on my own for seven years and now I'll actually be able to do it from the commissioner's office," Wilson said.
"My biggest goal here is not just to help parents through the system but try to get it so they're not in the system," she said. "Every time we remove a child, no matter why we remove them, they can hardly ever put the family back together the way it is."
Wilson has served as a representative of North Pole since 2009.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.