Update February 22 6:55 .p.m: On Thursday at 6:28 p.m., House Democrats confirmed Zulkosky's appointment. She is now House District 38's new state representative.
Governor Walker has appointed Tiffany Zulkosky to serve as House District 38’s new state representative. If confirmed by House Democrats, she would replace Representative Zach Fansler, who resigned earlier this month following assault allegations.
Governor Walker announced his decision in a press release this morning. “I am proud and humbled to forward someone with such a compelling background and strong voice to House Democrats for consideration,” he said.
Zulkosky grew up in Bethel and has worked in the region for years. She currently serves as the Vice President of Communications for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. In an interview with KYUK this morning, she said that she’s excited and honored to have been selected to represent her community.
"My life goal is to be able to tell our story," she said. "And if you can do that in a way that protects the interests of your community, and you have colleagues who think you would be effective in doing that, that’s very humbling."
Zulkosky originally wanted to be a journalist, but got into politics early. She was elected to Bethel’s city council at the age of 23, and appointed mayor only a year later. She remains the youngest mayor in Bethel’s history.
Zulkosky stepped down from that job to work for Senator Mark Begich’s office, where she served as his Rural Director, traveled the state, and saw many of the challenges facing Alaska’s rural communities firsthand. She remembers visiting Little Diomede, which was struggling with reliable transportation.
"There were issues around warming sea ice that was making landing planes for that community a bit difficult," she remembered. "There were some challenges with local carriers. There's the challenges that all of that poses in terms of bringing medications, and passengers, and mail, and resources to the local store. She added that these are just some of the the challenges involved in "protecting a community that has been there for thousands of years."
If confirmed by House Democrats, Zulkosky hopes to tackle the state’s fiscal crisis and work closely with constituents. She would also be one of the few women of color to serve in Alaska's legislature. Zulkosky is half-Yup'ik and half-Polish, and she says that growing up in a community like Bethel has given her a unique perspective.
"This region of Alaska is so diverse," she said. "We have varying groups that come from all over the world, as well as the people that have been in this region since time immemorial. And so I was very lucky, I feel, in the opportunities I’ve had in my life to grow up in this environment. It’s with that knowledge, and understanding, and footing that I feel capable of representing House District 38 in the state legislature."
Zulkosky is the latest in a series of politicians that Governor Walker has appointed to the legislature following several resignations in the State House and Senate. Senate Republicans confirmed Mike “Dozer” Shower to represent Mat-Su Valley’s District E on Thursday morning, and State Representative John Lincoln was sworn into District 40’s vacant seat in January.
In a press release Thursday evening, House Democrats applauded the Governor’s selection of Tiffany Zulkosky. Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon noted that Zulkosky would be the first Alaska Native woman to represent the YK-Delta since Mary Peltola retired from the legislature in 2008.
In an interview earlier this week, Zulkosky added that if she works well with the House Majority Coalition, she will consider running in the November 2018 election for House District 38’s seat.