Sullivan Honors Alaskan of the Week: Jeanne Follett

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) spoke on the Senate floor this week in recognition of Jeanne Follett from Moose Pass. For over a decade during the summers, Jeanne has helped keep Alaska clean by volunteering hours nearly every day cleaning up trash from the side of the of Seward and Sterling Highways. She estimates that she covers around 50 miles of highway every season. Jeanne was recognized as part of Senator Sullivan's "Alaskan of the Week" series. 


Senator Sullivan honoring Jeanne Follett as Alaskan of the Week (click image or here to watch, click here to download video).


TRIBUTE TO JEANNE FOLLETT -- (U.S. Senate - July 19, 2018)

Mr. President, it is Thursday afternoon, and it is one of my favorite times of the week. I know for many of my fellow Senators, including the Presiding Officer and the pages, this is one of their favorite times of the week, too, because it is the time that we get to talk about the Alaskan of the Week.

I had a couple of people today ask me: “Senator, when are you giving your speech on the Alaskan of the Week?”

I said: “Later.”

They said: “OK. We will keep an eye on it--because people find a lot of interest in what is happening in the great State of Alaska.”

The Alaskan of the Week, as many of my colleagues know, is somebody whom we like to highlight who has done great stuff for the State, community, town, maybe country. Sometimes it is someone famous. Oftentimes, it is somebody who has been working really hard for much of their life and doesn't get a lot of recognition. They are the heroes of the community. That is why we like to talk about the Alaskan of the Week.

It is also a great opportunity to talk to people in the Gallery or people watching on TV, on C-SPAN, to get them to come on up to Alaska. Come on up. It will be the trip of a lifetime. Of course, it is a gorgeous, huge State with mountains, glaciers, and wildlife, but when you get off the plane in Alaska, you get the sense of freedom--liberty. You can almost breathe it in ways that you can't in other places.

I tell everybody who is watching: Come on up. You will love it. It will be the trip of a lifetime. You will feel that freedom in the air like you do in almost no other place in the world.

Let me introduce you to our Alaskan of the Week, Jeanne Follett, who has displayed incredible commitment to keep our State clean and special. Let's talk about Jeanne. She was born in Detroit. She moved to Anchorage when she was just 6 years old and has called Alaska home ever since.

Like so many Alaskans, she has led a very interesting and varied life. She began her professional career as a court reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, our big newspaper, covering all kinds of trials when the State was still new and our court system had just been formed. Remember, we are a very young State.

Eventually, she moved to Girdwood, which is a beautiful ski resort town outside of Anchorage, where she was a breakfast cook and managed condos. She got a bit restless. She packed up her 1965 Mustang and drove across the country but missed Alaska so much she came back home again.

Then she worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, TAPS, as we call it, that flows the billions of barrels of oil from the North Slope down to Valdez for an energy-hungry country like ours.

She met her husband Ken as she was working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. They bought a lodge in a wonderful, small community called Moose Pass--a warm, welcoming, and gorgeous Alaska community in the heart of the Kenai Peninsula, about 100 miles south of Anchorage. If you are going to fish the famous Russian River, Moose Pass is a great home base.

Ken and Jeanne worked at the resort until they both retired. Jeanne always liked to keep her yard and her surroundings clean and organized, free of trash, but when her husband Ken, unfortunately, got sick--and, tragically, she lost him over 13 years ago--Jeanne began to spend her days helping clean up the State; picking up trash on the road by her House, farther and farther from her home in Moose Pass.

Think of this, as the snow melts in Alaska, and in all sorts of weather, to this day, Jeanne laces up her hiking boots, grabs her visors, her gloves, her safety vest, drives up the highway to the spot where she left off the previous day, and she starts cleaning up the highway every single day. She gets out her bags. She starts walking and cleaning up trash on the side of the highway. This highway abuts the majestic, beautiful Chugach National Forest. She guesses that every summer, she spends 3 to 6 hours a day volunteering picking up trash. Think about that.

Alaska is a beautiful, pristine place. As a matter of fact, that is one of the things, when people come to visit, they are going to see, but like all States, in particular highway areas in States, you have some garbage. Jeanne takes action every single day. She doesn't get paid. So 3 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, she is out there cleaning up the highway. Remarkable.

Sometimes friends and neighbors come and help out or Boy Scouts join her. One summer, she picked up 800 bags of trash to keep Alaska clean and pristine. People stop on the side of the road to talk to her or ask where the nearest gas station is. Sometimes people donate gas money to her because, remember, she is starting where she left off the next day, driving up the highway 40 miles to continue. It is not just time and effort, it is actual money. She thinks her presence on the side of the highway helps motivate others.

There was a story recently on KTUU, Channel 2, our big news station in Alaska. She said in that story that she thinks she has helped inspire people to keep the whole State clean, whether it is picking up trash themselves or not throwing litter outside your car.

Why does she do it, several hours a day, with no pay, day after day, week after week? She does it because she loves Alaska. She wants to keep it clean. We have hundreds of thousands--really millions--of tourists who come to our State. She doesn't want them to see trash when it is going to be the trip of a lifetime. She said: It embarrasses me to think that tourists from the lower 48 might show up in Alaska and see trash, so I am going to clean it up.

She does it because it is her way to give back to a State that has given her so much. She also gets to see things that others don't see often: beautiful wildflowers on the road, creeks, secret vistas. I am sure she has seen a few bears and a lot of bald eagles and moose. She even saw a man once walking a chicken. Yes, you see everything in Alaska.

Jeanne has found lost items on the side of the road: fishing licenses, cell phones, cameras. She tries her best to get these back to their owners. Once she found a set of hubcaps that had contact information on it for the owner. When she called and told him she had his hubcaps, he couldn't believe it. He was tickled pink to get his hubcaps back.

I think every State has somebody like Jeanne. There is no doubt, we all owe a debt of gratitude to people like Jeanne, working selflessly, volunteering thousands of hours to keep our States like Alaska clean, to keep America clean.

So, Jeanne, thanks for what you are doing for the great State of Alaska, and thank you and congratulations on being our Alaskan of the Week.

I yield the floor.