Sullivan Honors Alaska State Trooper Anne Sears as “Alaskan of the Week”

WASHINGTON—On the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) recognized Anne Sears—originally from Nome, Alaska, and now living in Wasilla—an Alaska state trooper who retired yesterday after several decades of dedicated service to Alaskans. Trooper Sears, the first and only Alaska Native female state trooper, was inspired to follow a career in public safety beginning as a clerk for the Juneau Police Department. Her career as a trooper took her to all corners of Alaska, including rural communities that too often lack any public safety presence. Sears was recognized as part of Sen. Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

Tribute to Anne Sears

Mr. President, there is a lot going in the Senate, as we have been debating and voting on a number of things--important matters, no doubt--for the country. But that doesn't mean that we are going to forget other important matters that we regularly take up here in the Senate. And what I am talking about, of course, is the Alaskan of the Week. 

Now, our pages are back, which is such great news. But you need to know this is one of the most exciting times in the Senate. Usually every Thursday I get an opportunity to come down here on the Senate floor and talk about somebody in Alaska who is making a difference.

In fact, we talked about a Gold Medal Olympic athlete just a couple of weeks ago, making a huge difference for Alaska, her community, the world, America. So we really enjoy this. We kind of have a cult following. But the pages really enjoy it because it is stories and adventure, all for the people who are doing wonderful things in my State. 

This week, on the actual day of her retirement from a long and rewarding career with the Alaska State Troopers, our Alaskan of the Week is Anne Sears. 

So before I talk about Anne and her extraordinary service to Alaska, about her being the first and only Alaskan Native female trooper, let me tell you a little bit about what is going on back home.

In Wasilla, Alaska, where Anne recently moved--she was actually born in Nome; we will talk about that--the temperature has been in the midforties, twenties at night. The sun rose today at 8 a.m., sets at 7:30 p.m. You know, it moves fast in Alaska. We have already had several pretty good size snowstorms. So winter is coming. Winter is coming--definitely coming to Alaska right now.

But let's get back to Anne. After decades of hard work as an Alaska State Trooper, it is time for Anne to settle into a new home, to rest, get some sleep, and think about her next steps--all of which she is planning on doing starting tomorrow because, today, she is retiring.

So Anne Sears--well, let's start with her mother Gladyce, who is from Nome. Gladyce actually left Nome for a little bit of time, moved to the lower 48. And among other things, Gladyce, Anne's mom, worked here in DC. She worked for Alaska Congressman Ralph Rivers. 

Most people don't think we ever had any other Congressman but   Don Young because he has been there forever, but this was Congressman Ralph Rivers. And Gladyce, Anne's mom, met her husband Cary, Anne's father, who was an electrician in the Navy. But Cary and Gladyce decided to move back to Nome because they wanted to make sure Anne was going to be born in Nome, which she was. 

So Gladyce, obviously, is a woman of ambition, and so was her daughter Anne. She passed that down to Anne. So after Anne was born and Cary, her father, left the Navy, he got a job as an electrician with the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska, which took him and his family all around the State: Bethel, Kotzebue, Unalakleet--so many great villages in our rural part of Alaska.

Now, eventually, they settled in Juneau. And after high school, Anne got a job as a clerk for the Juneau Police Department. All through her younger years, she knew she wanted to do something to help people. But it wasn't until the tender age of 31 that her calling came.

As the clerk at the Juneau Police Department, she decided: Hey, I can do this.

So she took the test required to become a police officer. Of course, a woman of this intelligence passed with flying colors, and she was offered the job. On the first day of on-the-job-training, Anne was in a police car, speeding to a site where a woman was hurt. She got there. She helped that woman. And her desire, motivation, to be a police officer was cemented. She was hooked.

She met her future husband Jay at the police academy, and eventually, they became Alaska State Troopers as a couple--both of them working in rural Alaska together, where they had worked for over 15 years. 

It didn't take Anne long to realize she was actually really good at her job. That is not being arrogant. She just knew.

“I could talk to people,” she said. “Not being big and being a woman, you've got to use your words [in this job].”

Anyone who has watched the reality show “Alaska State Troopers”--now, there are a lot of Alaska reality shows, but anyone at home watching right now, if you have seen “Alaska State Troopers,” you will have seen Anne featured prominently in that series, and you will understand what she means when she talks about using her words. She is articulate. She is tough. She is firm. She is very clear, but she is also calming, which is what you need from a good officer. She is able to bring calm and ease to the most volatile situations and situations that can be extraordinarily challenging for our law enforcement officers.

Now, as some might have heard me talk about here on the floor, the hundreds of small, rural villages in the hub communities of rural Alaska are literally the spiritual and cultural soul of my State. 

Like many areas across America, both urban and rural, rural Alaska also has many challenges. And one of them is that there is not enough public safety officers present in rural Alaska. We have dozens of communities with nothing--no sheriff, no police officer, no trooper, no VPSO--nothing. 

It is a big issue. It is something I am certainly passionate about that we are all working on, more law enforcement presence in our rural communities. So being a law enforcement officer in rural Alaska, particularly in the hundreds of villages that don't have roads to get in and out of, can pose unique challenges. Anne has seen those challenges throughout her career.

What are some of those?

Well, first, you have to get to the village, especially if it doesn't even have an officer in the village when this is a crime or a challenge. That often requires flying in a single-engine plane to a remote place in a giant State, in tough weather. Then when you get there, you have to figure out where you need to go. Sometimes, there is no facilities, no jail, no holding cell, no place to take people--maybe one city office, at the most. And then you have to figure out how to get into those offices, which can be particularly challenging, particularly in the winter. When it is cold and dark, it might be 50 below zero with the wind howling.

So these are many, many of the challenges that Anne has dealt with. As she says: This is not “NCIS” or “Law and Order.” In rural Alaska, we have to do it all.

Indeed, as a trooper, she has played many roles: a protector, an enforcer, a trooper, a friend, a confidant, a social worker. And she loved it all, and she was really good at it. Here is what she said:

It was the best job I could have ever had and the hardest job I could have ever had. But I couldn't have done it without my husband, Jay, my sons, Hunter and Zachery, and my brother, Perry. 

Anne also credits the health aides and public safety officers, VPSOs, VPOs in these villages who have really, really important roles.

One of the most difficult aspects of her job was handling cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Now, I love my State. We are a great State. I come down on the floor once a week and brag about it with our Alaskan of the Week. But this is something we don't like to brag about in Alaska: the horrific problems we have with domestic violence, sexual assault, and the challenges that brings particularly with young people, too many people. 

But she has been very focused on these issues. Anne teamed up with local health providers to go into high schools, to give presentations about these horrible crimes, and talk about why it is wrong--this kind of abuse--and to try to change the culture of our State, which we need to keep focused on. 

She had groups and gatherings for parents too. She said mostly mothers would come and, heartbreakingly, almost inevitably tell stories of some of the victims and survivors of abuse that we have in our State. But she was undeterred. 

She said: If I could just touch one child on these kinds of crimes, to help them, I know I made a difference.

Anne has made a difference--I would say a huge difference--for Alaska.

Here is what fellow Trooper Bryan Barlow said about Anne's service: “Her legacy as a caring, compassionate, and dedicated trooper and investigator has without a doubt made our State”--the great State of Alaska--”a much safer place.”

James Cockrell, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, said that Anne's dedication to rural Alaska was an extraordinary asset to the department's mission to keep Alaskans safe. 

As I have said, Anne was the first female Alaskan Native trooper, but I guarantee you, she will not be the last. She has proved a role model for so many, a true trailblazer, an example that we need in Alaska and so many people look up to. 

Now, she hasn't decided what the future holds, but she is still young and still has the urge to help out. I have no doubt she is going to make a big impact in other places, helping Alaskans. For now, though--you can tell this is a tough job--I think she needs a little rest and some sleep.

So, thank you, Anne, for all you have done. Congratulations on your retirement today. From the Alaska State Troopers: Thank you for being an inspiration, an example to so many in our great State. And, of course, congratulations on being our Alaskan of the Week.

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