FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2016
Senator Johnny Ellis Announces Retirement After 30 Years in the Legislature
“I always kept in mind and heart that I was there in the legislature to stand up and represent people in my district who cannot afford to hire a lobbyist.” – Senator Johnny Ellis
Today, Senator Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) announced that he will not seek reelection to the Alaska state legislature. Senator Ellis’ long and storied career began with his election in 1986 where he served in the House of Representatives until 1992. He then served in the State Senate from 1992 until the present, at various times serving as Majority Leader, Minority Leader, and Rules Chair, representing the communities of downtown Anchorage, Fairview, and South Addition.
His final year in the legislature has been an extremely productive one. His bill, SB23, which allowed easy access to overdose medication for those addicted to opioids and their loved ones, passed this year and was signed into law by Governor Walker. His foundational work on the landmark Criminal Justice Reform bill spanned years, and was finally brought to fruition last month with the passage of Senate Bill 91.
“It is almost impossible to imagine the Senate without him,” said Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). “He has so much institutional memory, and has devoted so much of his life to improving the state he loves. He will be profoundly missed, but his legacy of good works is enormous and will carry forward.”
Among Senator Ellis’ most satisfying accomplishments in public life have been budget items and bills to assist Alaskans with disabilities, and his role in creating the successful annual “Key Campaign” to support families with developmental disabilities. Other achievements close to the Senator’s heart involve his strong support for the University of Alaska statewide building program, and justice reform and reinvestment. He also started the well-attended annual “Sham Jam” St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Juneau which has benefitted local charities for thirty-one years.
Senator Ellis enjoyed a defining leadership role in the Senate’s bipartisan coalition from 2007-2012. He regards this era as a high point in his career, and a golden era for the legislature when he likes to say that the state “went on a savings spree, not a spending spree” putting more than $16 billion in the state coffers.
“Johnny is a dear friend and mentor, and a champion for my district, even though he lives in Anchorage. He was always there for Juneau,” said Senator Dennis Egan (D-Juneau). When I was mayor, he’d always take the time to listen to my community’s concerns. He will be sorely missed.
His involvement in community has extended throughout and beyond his legislative career in positions such as the Commissioner, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, American Council for Young Political Leaders co-chair, member of Mental Health Parity Task Force, Health Resources & Access Task Force Co-Chair, Family Support Task Force Co-Chair, Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Task Force Chair, Board of Directors, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center; Board of Directors, Blacks in Alaska History Project, Inc.; Board Member, Boys & Girls Clubs of Southcentral Alaska; Board Member, Food Bank of Anchorage Advisory Board; Fairview Community Council; Board Member, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation; Member, Anchorage Waterways Council; Member, Alaska Women’s Lobby; Business and Professional Women/USA; Member, We the People Committee; Member, Key Campaign to advocate for people with disabilities.
“Johnny Ellis has been an inspiration to me and many others,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage). “I have learned from him, and am genuinely inspired by the kind of public servant he has been. It won’t be the same without him.”
Contact Jeanne Devon, Press Secretary, Alaska Senate Democrats, 907-269-0173