Three people have been forwarded by the region’s Democrats as possible candidates for Zach Fansler’s replacement as State Representative for House District 38. On Wednesday, KYUK presented the first of three profiles with the nominees.
As a college student Tiffany Zulkosky wanted to write for newspapers, but with the advent of the internet, newsrooms were shrinking or going under. “I probably would, you know, not have a job if that was the path I went down," she said.
Instead Zulkosky went into communications, and jumped at the chance to do that work in Bethel when the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hired her to be their Vice President of Communications in 2016.
Zulkosky spent much of her childhood in Bethel. She's also lived in Minnesota and spent several years in Anchorage as an adult. Like many people who grew up in small towns she said that she had big city dreams and aspirations, but Bethel kept pulling her back.
“There's a sense of community in rural Alaska that cannot be replaced," Zulkosky said. "There's a longing that I had to come back and be a part of the community. This is something that was really great about coming home."
Her present position at YKHC was not her first job in Bethel. A few years after getting her degree, she was working here when she made her first foray into politics. At the age of 23 she won a seat on the Bethel City Council. A year later, the Council voted her mayor.
“I think there was a sense of wanting to have some fresh perspectives," she said. "And so I was elected by my peers on council to serve as mayor of Bethel. I had turned 24 by that point.”
Zulkosky remains the youngest Mayor in Bethel history, and that was only the beginning of her political experience. Former Senator Mark Begich tapped her to serve as his Rural Director, a position based in Anchorage. That job ended when Begich lost his seat in the U.S. Senate, but not before Zulkosky got a firsthand look at the challenges facing many of the state’s rural communities.
“I just want to use those opportunities and that experience in a way that I can continue to give back to the communities in the region that have really invested in me,” she said.
If selected to serve as House District 38's state representative, Zulkosky said that she would view the state's fiscal crisis as a particular challenge. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta needs more investment to provide much-needed services to the region, she said, and she sees opportunities to collaborate with tribal groups to attain that funding.
"Exploring those opportunities are absolutely paramount, and making sure that we have a solid fiscal footing is essential to that," Zulkosky said.
If chosen, Zulkosky would also plan to stay in close touch with constituents. "Having to communicate complex issues to a wide range of customers has provided me with the skills to do that successfully, were I appointed to this position,” she said.
Tiffany Zulkosky added that if the Governor appoints her and she is a good fit with the House Majority Coalition, she will consider running in the next election for the Representative from House District 38.
Tomorrow KYUK profiles Yvonne Jackson, the second candidate elected by regional Democrats as a possible representative for House District 38.