JUNEAU, AK – Bill Walker, who was one of the country's few politically unaffiliated governors, plans to discuss with students bridging the political divide during an upcoming, on-campus residency at Harvard University.
The former Alaska governor is among six people chosen as resident fellows for the spring semester at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. The fellows will live on the Massachusetts campus for the spring semester, mentor students and lead an eight week, not-for-credit study group, according to the institute.
Walker, who left office in late 2018, said he spoke to students during a visit last year and enjoyed the experience. He expects as part of the program to discuss running and governing as an independent and bridging the political divide.
“I think that's really one of the things that they're sort of looking for, is that kind of dialogue: is there a way of toning down the sort of partisan (rhetoric),” he said. He noted as governor he worked with the Obama and Trump administrations and cited as one of his biggest accomplishments a politically mixed Cabinet.
In 2014, Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican and was elected as an independent with Democratic support as part of a so-called “unity ticket,” with Democrat Byron Mallott as his lieutenant governor. Walker ended his re-election campaign shortly before the 2018 election, after Mallott resigned for what Walker described as an inappropriate overture to a woman.
He declined to discuss his thoughts on his successor, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, saying Alaska has one governor at a time. Walker said he appreciated that his predecessor, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, did not weigh in on things he did.
“There are enough commenters out there without having a former governor, a predecessor, weighing in,” he said. “But that doesn't mean I stop looking at how I can continue to help Alaska.”
Walker, who joined a law firm after leaving office, said he sees the Harvard program as an opportunity to reflect on his experience and consider “what is the next chapter going to look like.”
Past fellows include policy experts, political strategists and former diplomats and political leaders, such as former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and former Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire. Fran Ulmer, the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor in Alaska, is a past program fellow.