During my time in Alaska, I’ve had the privilege to meet wonderful people, see amazing sites and participate in historic events. Among my greatest moments was getting a Johnny Ellis hip-hop nickname. So just call me D-Kap.
Johnny Ellis and I started hanging out in Juneau around the same time, in the mid-1980s. He was a new member of the State House, representing downtown Anchorage. I would visit our capital city at that time to advocate for public radio. He was a hero for the poor, the disenfranchised, the old, the disabled, the marginalized, the homeless, the sick, the immigrant. To me, he was a hero for the nonprofit sector. He valued us, consulted with us, advised us, attended our special celebrations. He knew the people we served. We felt just as important as big corporate executives when we went to see him–maybe more so. He always made time for us.
Recently, leaders from the nonprofit sector gathered at Rasmuson Foundation to thank and honor Johnny Ellis. A fountain of affection flowed continuously. As speakers relayed the thousand ways he provided leadership, support and comfort to better Alaska, he repeatedly interrupted in his Johnny Ellis way to say, “No. So-and-so deserves the real credit for this. So-and-so really should be thanked for that.”
He reflected that the best of his 32 years in public service were those he spent as part of the Bipartisan Senate Majority. To accomplish great things for Alaska and to propel the state forward, Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences on the political left and right margins and focused on the common ground they shared as Alaskans. The investments they made in Alaska’s infrastructure and policy are significant and will benefit generations of Alaskans.
Thank you, Senator Ellis, for showing us what a life of service looks like. But please don’t stop now that you’ve retired from the Legislature. There is still so much to do.