In what’s being called “The Year Of The Woman,” State Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky has been using her legislative position to recognize the achievements of women across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
More women served in the Alaska Legislature this year than any time in the state’s history. Of the 60 legislative seats, women occupied 19 of them.
“So it was an exciting time for Alaska as a state," said Rep. Zulkosky.
All female legislators were recognized in March during Women’s History Month through a legislative citation: a tool to recognize or honor the achievements and contributions of a person, group, or moment in Alaska’s history. Zulkosky wanted to extend this recognition to the women she represents, whose work, she says, often goes unrecognized.
And so, as a co-sponsor with Sen. Lyman Hoffman, she honored the Aniak Halfbreeds, the 2018 Girls' Basketball 1A State Champions.
“That’s a great achievement for local athletes who commit to training, who commit to sportsmanship and teamwork, and who work hard and train throughout the year,” Zulkosky said.
She wanted to recognize the dedication and hard work it took to win in state competition.
“These are young people who probably get up early in the morning to go to practice, and who have to figure out how to communicate with one another on the court, and who have to make sure they’re balancing their educational achievements," Zulkosky explained. "And so it’s a lot for someone who is under the age of 18 to make sure you’re balancing so many things.”
Another Zulkosky legislative citation was more personal. Maro Kargas was a matriarch in Bethel who died in July 2017. Every spring, Maro would return to Bethel from Cyprus with her family to run what was for decades one of Bethel’s most beloved restaurants: Dimitri’s.
“I know I’m not alone in being somebody who loved what that restaurant meant," Zulkosky said. "It wasn’t just a place where people went to eat good food, but they gathered around the table to share meals with friends and family, or celebrate moments in life, or before young kids went to prom. There are these moments and generations that have been brought together by that place.”
Zulkosky also sponsored a citation honoring more than 60 women who are pooling their money to fund projects important to them.
“YK Delta Women in Philanthropy is made up of retired women," Zulkosky explained, "women who are early in their career, women who might be mid-career, women who come together to create a sense of community, and that’s something that’s so lovely about rural Alaska."
Zulkosky is a founding member of the group, which began in 2016. This year, YK Delta Women in Philanthropy is funding a local project that teaches young girls self-esteem and fitness and funding the international non-profit South Sudan Medical Relief, founded by longtime Bethel resident Dr. Jill Seaman.
Zulkosky also joined Sen. Hoffman in recognizing the 2018 top ten Iditarod finishers. That list includes Bethel’s Pete Kaiser and Aniak’s Richie Diehl.
The legislative session is an intense time. Zulkosky says that the politics can be “cut throat” and move fast. Citations are passed by the legislature at the beginning of the day. For Zulkosky, that was a time to center herself, a reminder of why she’s there.
“Alaska is doing some really incredible things. And although we’re talking big budget, difficult, public policy agency challenges, there are communities doing what they can around kitchen tables, or getting up early and putting on their tennis shoes, to going into a hard, cold, brutal mushing race," Zulkosky said. "We get to elevate that story, and that’s what was really exciting.”
Zulkosky is running for state House election this November.