Working in the Alaska Legislature, 30th Session 2018




Donn Liston

“It was with great pleasure that I accepted the honor of serving

Rep. Lora Reinbold as her staff during the Alaska Legislative

Session beginning January 10, 2018. She is the elected official

from Eagle River I have most admired.

This came at a difficult time for me. My wife Cathy and I had previously lived 20 years

in Juneau but had been away for 15 years. Rep. Reinbold knew Cathy had been 

diagnosed with lung cancer–but treatments had been going well and we had every hope 

this adventure would be good despite health concerns. Lora, too, had family members 

with serious health issues and her father passed during session. Cathy and I looked 

forward to renewing old friendships and seeing how Juneau has changed.

Within two weeks of relocating to Juneau Cathy became very ill. After three days at

Bartlett Memorial Hospital Cathy and I returned to Anchorage where she was given 

“Gamma Knife” treatments for brain tumors. Rep. Reinbold assured me that “family 

comes first” and provided flexibility with work to do in district. Ultimately my wife of 28 

years went to live with her daughter’s family near the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for the 

rest of session.

I was familiar with the general duties of legislative staff, after having worked for a previous

legislator in 1983, and I took great pride in having such a great team with Carol Sampson

 in Room 409 of the capitol. I took the early shift and arrived every morning to set the 

stage for what every day was a pleasure to experience. When events turned difficult I 

would declare: “Isn’t this great!” and Lora sometimes burst out laughing.

The legislature is an intensive, challenging, and sometimes difficult workplace. Schedules

and paperwork and interactions between people of varied interests make every action of 

a staff person potentially perilous. Lora set expectations, invited suggestions, asked for 

views and welcomed my initiatives on her part. I wasn’t as fast as I once was, had to learn 

quickly how systems had changed, and did my best to keep up with the demands of this 

hardest working legislator in Juneau.

As difficult as it was for me, I would work for her again if she asked me to, and I would

be a better employee for what she has already taught me about being an effective voice 

for constituents of our region.”

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