The Governor of Alaska is the chief executive of the State of Alaska. The governor is the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces (including the Alaska National Guard and Alaska State Defense Force), The governor is also the head of the executive branch of Alaska's state government and has a duty to enforce state laws, and the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Alaska Legislature, to convene the legislature, and to grant pardons, except in cases of impeachment.
Eleven people have served as governor of the State of Alaska over 13 distinct terms, though Alaska had over 30 civilian and military governors during its long history as a United States territory. Only two governors, William Allen Egan and Bill Walker, were born in Alaska. Two people, Egan and Wally Hickel, have been elected to multiple non-consecutive terms as governor. Hickel is also noted for a rare third party win in American politics, having been elected to a term in 1990 representing the Alaskan Independence Party. The longest-serving governor of the state was Egan, who was elected three times and served nearly 12 years. The longest-serving territorial governor was Ernest Gruening, who served 13½ years.
The current governor is Bill Walker, who took office on December 1, 2014.
Alaska was purchased by the United States from the Russian Empire in 1867, with formal transfer occurring on October 18, 1867, which is now celebrated as Alaska Day. Prior to then, it was known as Russian America or Russian Alaska, controlled by the governors and general managers of the Russian-American Company.
The vast region was initially designated the Department of Alaska, under the jurisdiction of the Department of War and administered by the U.S. Army officers until 1877, when the Army was withdrawn from Alaska. The Department of the Treasury then took control, with the Collector of Customs as the highest ranking federal official in the territory. In 1879, the U.S. Navy was given jurisdiction over the department.
Some believe the first American administrator of Alaska was Polish immigrant Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski. However, the Anchorage Daily News was unable to find any conclusive information to support this claim.
On May 17, 1884, the Department of Alaska was redesignated the District of Alaska, an incorporated but unorganized territory with a civil government. The governor was appointed by the President of the United States.
The District of Alaska was organized into Alaska Territory on August 24, 1912. Governors continued to be appointed by the President of the United States. During World War II, parts of the Aleutian Islands were occupied by Imperial Japan from June 5, 1942, to June 28, 1943.
Alaska was admitted to the Union on January 3, 1959.
The state constitution provides for the election of a governor and lieutenant governor every four years on the same ticket, with their terms commencing on the first Monday in the December following the election. Governors are allowed to succeed themselves once, having to wait four years after their second term in a row before being allowed to run again. Should the office of governor become vacant, the lieutenant governor assumes the title of governor. The original constitution of 1956 created the office of secretary of state, which was functionally identical to a lieutenant governor, and was renamed to "lieutenant governor" in 1970.
There have been six governors from the Republican Party, four from the Democratic Party, one independent, and one, Wally Hickel, who was elected under the Alaskan Independence Party during his second period in office. Many Republicans were unhappy with the choice of Arliss Sturgulewski as their party's candidate for governor in the 1990 election, and Hickel was able to attract their votes. However, he never held the AIP's secessionist ideals, and switched back to the Republican Party eight months before his term ended.
Five of Alaska's governors have served other high offices, including one Cabinet member and one governor of another state. Three were members of the U.S. Congress, although only two represented Alaska.
|Governor||Other offices held||Source|
|John Henry Kinkead||Governor of Nevada|||
|James Sheakley||Representative from Pennsylvania|||
|Ernest Gruening||Senator from Alaska|||
|Wally Hickel||Secretary of the Interior|||
|Tony Knowles||Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska|||
|Frank Murkowski||Senator from Alaska|||
As of January 2017[update] there are seven living former governors of Alaska, the oldest being Keith Harvey Miller (served 1969-1970, born 1925). The most recent death of a former governor was that of Mike Stepovich (served 1957-1958, born 1919) on February 14, 2014. The most recently serving governor to die was Wally Hickel (served 1966-1969 and 1990-1994, born 1919) on May 7, 2010.
|Governor||Years in office||Date of birth (and age)|
|Keith Harvey Miller||1969–1970||March 1, 1925|
|Bill Sheffield||1982–1986||June 26, 1928|
|Steve Cowper||1986–1990||August 21, 1938|
|Tony Knowles||1994–2002||January 1, 1943|
|Frank Murkowski||2002–2006||March 28, 1933|
|Sarah Palin||2006–2009||February 11, 1964|
|Sean Parnell||2009–2014||November 19, 1962|
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