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Growing up in Wild Alaska

Growing up in the coastal rainforest of Southeast Alaska provided many exciting adventures in the beautiful wilderness of Alexander’s Archipelago. SE Alaska is a special place of tremendous diversity that provides many recreation and educational opportunities about the wilds. Alaska Pictures has some beautiful photos of Alaska and you can get some great travel information from the Alaska Division of Tourism.

Commercial Fishing in Alaska

Choosing a summer job as a commercial fisherman was a natural for a teenage boy in Ketchikan, Alaska. Between 1965 and 1981 my summers revolved around commercial salmon fishing. I acquired my first fishing vessel at age eighteen and owned several different vessels over the years. During those years I was also involved in organizing a fishermen’s co-op, creating private non-profit fishermen-owned salmon hatcheries, and trade groups. has some nice photos of commercial fishing in Alaska.

Alaska’s Abundant Resources

Alaska is blessed with healthy natural resources such as its salmon that support thousands of fishermen, seafood processors, a sport fishing industry, and a bounty for tourists visiting Alaska. Like many places, several of Alaska’s natural resources were brought to the brink of extinction before valuable lessons were learned. Alaskans had to sacrifice for many years to rebuild their fishery resources. Alaska was able to evolve laws, institutions, and a culture based on the sustainability of natural resources and utilization of natural resources for the public interest. Today, Alaska’s management of its natural resources both renewable and non-renewable has established models for other jurisdictions on the sustainable use of resources for the broad public benefit.


On a fantastic trip to the Antarctic plateau and Ellsworth Range, our team fell short below the summit of Mt Vinson, the highest summit in Antarctica. We took a beautiful ski trip down the Ellsworth range and got a consolation prize with a first ascent of Mt. Slaughter (3,600m). Our experience of Antarctica was enhanced and given realism as we waited for two weeks in several snow storms reading about Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic adventures decades earlier. We celebrated Christmas with an innovative hockey game in a glacial ice bowl on the Antarctic icecap at Patriot Hills base camp. On this trip, my friend Doron Erel did summit Mt. Vinson completing the seven summits and becoming the first Israeli to do the seven summits.

With my Alaska partners Doug Pope and Dave Jones, we climbed the highest peak in South America, Aconcagua (22,840ft; 6,982m) via the Polish route in 1986 (my first climb above 5,000 ft). We met some new friends on this route from Poland who were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Polish route. I was able to visit them some years later after the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe opened up. In the Seattle backyard, Mt. Rainier (14,409ft; 4,392m) provides an ever-ready challenge to make sure one is in shape. Along the way have been interesting trips to Africa to climb Kenya and Kilimanjaro; and Mexico to climb Ixta and Orizaba.

Summiting Denali in 2003 was the realization of a childhood dream and a fantastic trip. On summit day at 20,320 feet we could see forever. We had several exciting storms, one forcing a campsite on a narrow ridge at 16,500 feet. Our lead guide Brent Okita with RMI is a masterful and experienced guide that will get you to the summit safely.

One of the side benefits of climbing is the enforced training program and this has led to my current side hobby of marathons, which provides a new opportunity for travel and meeting other marathoners. This led to running trail ultras including White River 50 miler, Bryce Canyon 50, and the Cascade Crest 100 miler in 2015. In 2021 I became the oldest finisher at age 71 of the Moab 240-mile ultra; and the Bigfoot 200 at Mt. St. Helens in 2023.

Pacific Crest Trail

My intrepid friend and partner, John Sund, and I set out in 2010 to section hike the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail that follows the highest mountains along the coast from Mexico to Canada. We soon realized that a couple hundred miles per year wouldn’t do it and we started hiking 500 miles per summer. The PCT passes through 48 wilderness areas, national park gems like Crater Lake, Mt. Hood, and Yosemite along with the highest peaks and passes in the country – Mt Whitney. The PCT is a national treasure. We gained enormous respect for the “through hikers” who do the trail in one long season. We finished on September 12, 2015, in the High Sierra Mountains.  Our next backing project was the Arizona Trail which courses through the mountains and desert, and crosses the Grand Canyon from Mexico to Utah, 800 miles.

Row to Alaska

My next adventure with my partner John was rowing from Seattle to our home town Ketchikan, Alaska. We bought a 17-foot Whitehall row boat built in Victoria, British Columbia. The Whitehall is a classic 150-year-old design vessel that is extremely seaworthy and glides beautifully when powered by 9’6″ sculling oars (like the “Boys in the Boat”).  We trained to learn how to scull and build up our endurance to row 8-12 hours per day.  We completed the epic trip in two seasons, 925 miles over 46 days, camping on the beaches of Washington, British Columbia, and Alaska.

The Alaska Legislature

My interest in public service started in college with an internship in the Washington State Legislature and subsequently working in the Alaska Legislature as Committee staff. Friends convinced me to file for election in 1972 and I ended up winning the election instead of returning to college! The next ten years were devoted to five terms in the Alaska Legislature. My five terms in the Legislature included the leadership positions of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Judiciary Committee Chairman, and Chairman of the Alaska Criminal Code Commission. Alaska was fortunate during this tumultuous time to have elected many public policy-minded government officials in both political parties. I had the good fortune of working with many statesmen on long-term programs to benefit the public interest.

Alaska Oil and the Permanent Fund

During my Legislative terms, Alaska went through a significant transition with oil development and the construction of the Trans Alaska Pipeline. I was involved in creating several progressive and creative institutions to cope with significant changes during this decade. The most prominent was the Alaska Permanent Fund which now has $ 75 Billion invested and is still growing. The Permanent Fund saves in perpetuity 25% of Alaska’s oil wealth to fund state government and dividend annually cash to all Alaskan citizens. After significant political controversy, the Permanent Fund was created by constitutional amendment. Later we developed a highly successful management and investment structure called the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. The Trustees have exceeded expectations over nearly four decades averaging ten percent return with a consistent farsighted investment policy

Alaska Fisheries

The fishing industry is the largest employer in Alaska. I devoted considerable time to the development of several lasting institutions. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, an award-winning marketing organization promotes the marketing and quality of Alaska seafood products. The Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank provides needed financing to remote businesses and fishermen that do not fit mainstream banking. The Private NonProfit Hatchery Act created a very novel blend of private and public resources, talents, and energies and has been successful in economically rebuilding and enlarging Alaska salmon runs by engaging private sector investment and management. Many regional salmon hatchery associations such as SSRAA, NSRAA, and PWSAC were formed by commercial fishermen under this legislation and the result has been enhanced salmon resources that contribute to the vitality of the regional economies and all user groups.

Other Legislative Projects

A long-term project I headed was a revision of all Alaska criminal law which culminated in 1978 with the passage of the revised Alaska Criminal Code. Other significant projects I spent major efforts on were providing doctors with medical malpractice insurance through the establishment of the Medical Indemnity Corporation of Alaska. The long-term sustainability of the Alaska economy and broad citizen benefits were some of our themes for utilizing oil wealth. This goal was met by constructing many sustainable finance institutions with state oil revenues such as the loan fund for hydro-electric development; citizen home loans through the Alaska Housing Finance Corp.; economic development projects financed by the Alaska Industrial Development Authority; and assisting municipalities to finance capital projects through the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank.

Public service positions

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alaska – 1979-1980

Elected to the Alaska House of Representatives 1972-1982 for five terms

  • Chairman Judiciary Committee 1975-1978
  • Chairman Resources Committee 1981
  • Co-Chairman Alaska Permanent Fund Committee 1977-1978

Chairman Alaska Criminal Code Commission -1975-1978

Board of Directors Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute 1982-1985

Member US National Seafood Promotional Council 1987-1990

Advisor to the International North Pacific Salmon Commission

Alaska SeaGrant College Advisory Committee

National SeaGrant Advisory Committee

HHS Health CO-OP Advisor – 2010-2012

Seafood Processing 1981-2005

In 1981 several friends and I decided to create a startup seafood processing company in Alaska to develop high-quality new seafood products produced in Alaska, especially smoked salmon. That decision began a two-decade journey starting with Silver Lining Seafoods our startup company with one plant in Ketchikan, Alaska. Two decades later we had a thousand employees in eight locations in Alaska and Washington states; over $ 100 MM in sales and markets stretched around the globe. It was an exciting odyssey with a talented management team. It was a challenging and educational opportunity to build a company as an owner from the ground up. I was President of Silver Lining and NorQuest Seafoods from 1981-2004.

As a seafood processing company, we purchased fish from hundreds of independent fishermen who ply Alaska’s thousands of miles of productive shoreline. We processed salmon, herring, shrimp, crab, halibut, sablefish, cod, and other species into many forms of fresh, frozen, smoked, canned, and cured seafood products for consumers around the world. The majority of our products were exported outside the US to Asia and Europe. Alaska has many remote and roadless areas where we operated and the only means in and out were small aircraft or our company vessels in some locations. It’s an entrepreneurial environment where only the most competitive and resourceful seafood companies and fishermen survive.

In 1992 through a merger and expansion, we became NorQuest Seafood. This merger greatly expanded our management team, facilities, markets, and new opportunities. For more information on the company we built check out Norquest Seafoods. In 2004 NorQuest Seafoods became part of Trident Seafoods the largest and most successful seafood company in North America. My partners are carrying on the traditions and policies that built NorQuest and have allowed me to retire and devote myself to public policy activities.

If you are hungry for some great Alaska seafood, or need some recipes or gifts NorQuest Seafoods developed two well-known seafood brands and retail outlets. You can order some great Alaska seafood at two retail sites, Silver Lining Seafood and Port Chatham Smoked Seafoods. NorQuest has one of its processing plants in Cordova, Alaska home of the famous Copper River salmon fishery that produces wild sockeye and king salmon that are to die for.

Health Care Reform 2005-2012

As the CEO of a private sector company in the US for the last two decades, I became painfully aware of the rapidly rising costs and reduction of access to health care for Americans. Research of the roots of these problems and projections of the current adverse trends reveals that the current healthcare systems in the United States are not sustainable. The skyrocketing costs of health care in the US and other countries are resulting in reduced access to medicine and health care. This is a matter of life and death for many people. Every person has a fundamental right to lead a healthy life. It is incumbent on our political system to implement reforms to our health care systems that enhance the access and quality of health care for every citizen.

My goal was to draw from both my experiences in the private sector and government to seek creative methods to lower costs and broaden access to health care.

I worked with Essential Inventions, a Washington DC non-profit led by James Love. Essential Inventions focuses on innovative public policies that aim to reverse the adverse trends in our health care systems. Essential Inventions presented the Essential Patent Pool for AIDS (EPPA) to WHO, UNAIDS and the Global Fund. The focus of the EPPA is to provide affordable AIDS medicines to developing countries as well to accelerate needed innovation for the needs of patients in developing countries.

Essential Inventions has worked with Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the resulting introduction of HR 417, the Medical Innovation Prize Fund. This far-reaching proposed legislation would transform how medicines are priced in the US to generic price levels. Additionally, it would re-orient research and development for new medicines to medicines with therapeutic benefits. (Sanders is now a US Senator!)

I have worked with CodeBlueNow!, a non-profit organization headed by Kathleen O’Connor. CodeBlueNow! is a grassroots non-partisan group that is focusing on strategies to create a national civic dialogue on what the US healthcare system should look like. One of CodeBlueNow!’s first projects was a competition that invited Americans to submit ideas on how America’s health care system might be improved. The creative results of the 109 proposals for this competition can be found on the website. Current projects are a Health Care Congress at Loma Linda University, a ten-part editorial series in the Seattle Post Intelligence, and a Town Hall Meeting in Seattle.

In Washington State I worked with several state groups on health reform; the Healthy Washington Coalition which is promoting many health care reform bills in the Washington Legislature, especially focusing on health coverage for uninsured children and providing access to affordable health insurance for small businesses. I am also on the Board of Physicians for National Health Plan in Washington which is promoting comprehensive healthcare reform nationally and at the state level. I think physicians are a critically important force in achieving healthcare reform in our country. Recently we have formed the Washington Health Security Coalition to build a statewide organization to lobby for legislation that would provide health care for all citizens both at the state and federal level.

Herndon Alliance

The Herndon Alliance is a national coalition of over one hundred healthcare reform groups, both state and national. Herndon Alliance does research, surveys, and communication work to assist its partners to better communicate the case for health care reform. Herndon itself does not advocate legislation. My primary Herndon work is business engagement and communication. We believe that business support for comprehensive healthcare reform is an essential element in the path to legislative success. We have organized Small Business for Affordable Healthcare as part of this strategy and work.

Small Business Majority

In early 2008 I started working with Small Business Majority to help build a business voice in support of comprehensive national health care reform. In July 2008 I opened the national office for SBM as national policy director in Washington DC to support the efforts for national health reform and other general policies assisting America’s 28 million small businesses, such as access to capital through 2012.

Guaranteed HealthCare Access Plan

On the policy front, I find the Guaranteed HealthCare Access Plan proposed by Professor Victor Fuchs and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel as the most practical and politically feasible comprehensive solution to fixing our broken health care system. Along with some other volunteers, I have been helping get educational materials to opinion leaders and others on this creative plan for health care reform. Dr. Emanuel has written a book describing the plan in detail “Healthcare, Guaranteed”. Dr. Emanuel has gone to work for the Obama Administration as part of his healthcare reform team.

This plan may be too idealistic for Americans who fear change. While Americans know their health system is broken and they favor reform, there is no plurality favoring any one reform plan. The GHAP plan has many policies and features that can hopefully become part of a less dramatic, but still significant national health reform package.

Cascade Land Conservancy and the Cascade Agenda

The Cascade Land Conservancy worked with thousands of Puget Sound residents and experts in Washington State to build a “hundred-year vision” for the region. We know the population will double and that current growth patterns will wipe out the remaining working farm, forest, and recreation lands with urban sprawl if we continue our current growth patterns. The Cascade Agenda calls for the utilization of market-based mechanisms and “smart growth” policies to provide for sustainable growth and the perseveration of a high quality of life in the Pacific Northwest Puget Sound basin.

I served on the Cascade Agenda Implementation Team, and several work groups and assisted staff on projects as do many many volunteers from the private and public sectors. Cascade Land Conservancy has built a very large and productive coalition of individuals and groups to implement the Cascade Agenda.

Many other regions of our country should study the process and policies that the Cascade Agenda has grown out of its experience in their endeavors to meet the challenges of sustainable growth and preservation of a high quality of living.

Best Practices Wiki

In late 2012 I started a project to build a wiki website of best practices that would be a freely available public repository of best practices in all fields and areas modeled primarily on Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia.  The primary beneficiaries of the Best Practices Wiki would be leaders and managers of small organizations – for-profit, non-profit, and small government organizations.

In parallel, I have authored the leadership book, Six-Word Lessons to Build Effective Leaders: 100 Lessons to Equip Your People to Create Winning Organizations. The proceeds from the book are donated to support the Best Practices Wiki.

Anvil Corp, An Employee Owned Company

I served on the Board of Directors of the Anvil Corp for over a decade. Anvil is an ESOP, Employee Stock Ownership Plan, with over 400 employees operating in the western US.  Anvil does complex engineering for the oil and gas and other industries with complex engineering challenges.  As an outside director, my job was to help the company grow and be successful to maximize both the career and ownership opportunities for all the employees.

I have been a supporter of employee-owned companies since meeting San Francisco attorney Louis Kelso in the 1970s through US Sen. Mike Gravel.  Kelso formed the first ESOP in 1956. Sen. Gravel passed legislation to facilitate ESOPS in the late 70s with the support of Sen. Russell Long.  Today there are 6,500 ESOPs with over 10 million employees and $1.6 trillion in assets.  ESOPs have proven to generate more jobs, lay off fewer employees in recessions, and create more patents than other for-profit corporations proving they are a worthy addition to the US economy with many benefits to society.

Other projects I worked on over the years include:

  • Creation of a fishermen co-operative 1972 – Commercial Fishermen Co-operative Association
  • The Alaska non-profit salmon hatchery program in the 1970s provided for fishermen-owned hatcheries to rebuild Alaska’s depleted salmon runs.
  • Expansion of the Alaska Credit Union law to expand credit opportunities for Alaskans.
  • Creation of the Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank (CFAB) to finance Alaska natural resource businesses.