I've known Walt since I gave him and some other Anchorage Police Department officers a tour of the Cordova Center, Alaska's largest halfway house, when I was running it in 1991. He asked a lot of questions, some hard to answer.
Of the questions Alex asks of Walt now, the most interesting to me is how his dismissal went down:
[J]ust before I left, my final week, I was scheduled to fly down to Bristol Bay and observe the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the Brown Shirts, in the Bristol Bay fishery. There'd be the marshal in town to keep everyone civil. So I was going to spend Monday through Friday on the fishery, and I moved from one boat to the other, from the Enforcer to the smaller boat.
While I was on the boats, I'd put in a request to meet with the chief of staff about issues on the upcoming gubernatorial picnics. And I said we should talk about this. And while I was there, by satellite phone, I was advised that I have a meeting with the chief of staff on Friday at 3 o' clock at the governor's office in Anchorage.
OK, cool. So I get into Dillingham. I call my wife. I ask her, "Can you meet me (at the Anchorage international airport) and bring me a suit?" I'm dressed in jeans and flannel shirts, right, this is boats. So she drops off a suit, I arrive in, I change into my suit and I go straight to the governor's office, and Mike Nizich and I were sitting at the conference table in the governor's office.
And that's when he informs me, "The governor would like to offer you the position of the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board."
"Umm, I take it that means I'm no longer the commissioner of Public Safety."
"When is it effective?"
Oh wow. My head wasn't even in that part of the world, you know. So I asked a couple questions. I asked, "Was it Mike Wooten?"
"No, the governor just wants to take it in a different direction."
"A different one."
"Ah, OK. Well as far as that job is concerned, I'm not interested."
He said, "Well, think about it. Talk to your wife first, I'll call you tomorrow."
"I can do that. I'll do that."
I explained this was out of the blue. I didn't know anyone was ever mad at me. No one ever yelled at me. No one ever said, "Watch it, one more time." There wasn't any of that. It was just, "Wow."
But I understand it's an at-will position, you can be dismissed for any reason, or no reason at all. That's what I did as chief (in Anchorage) and I was chief for five and a half years.
So, I asked if there was going to be a replacement and Mike Nizich told me there was a short list.
"And the acting position will be the deputy commissioner, John Glass?"
"Have you told him?"
"No. Do you want me to tell him?"
"Sure, I can do that."
So I got up and shook his hand and told him I'd talk to him tomorrow and I left. It was a shock. So I contacted all my directors, I talked to John. I called my wife first, and she goes, "What happened?"
"I don't know. I don't know."
And as the media rose to this, once it became public, it was actually the governor herself who narrowed it down for me. I suspected that Wooten might be a part of it.
But it was, "Walt wasn't doing enough for the alcohol in the Bush."
Well, that'd never been a complaint to me. But then a reporter said, "So, then why you'd offer him the job of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board director?"