Published December 2017
Describe your family (married, children, grandchildren?) What are their names?
My wife, Linda Fleury and I have four children, Donna, Melissa, Jerry, and Dominic. Friends call me “Palmer.” My mother was the late Leona Joe and her father was the late Tazlina Joe. My grandfather used to have a village at Tazlina Lake in the early 20s and 30s and that is where my aunts and uncles were born.
What tribe are you a member of?
I’m a member of the Taltsiine, Water Clan. It is pronounced (Tal-chee-na). Our clan was named for the many rivers that were where we lived and hunted.
What are some defining/influential moments in your life?
I developed my strong work ethic at a young age and it has stayed with me probably due to my first job I had. When I was 16 years old I worked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a Fire Fighter Crew Chief and it was hot, hard work!
Is there anyone in particular in your life that has inspired you?
The best part of my first job was my BLM boss, Fred Rungee. He taught me what good work ethics were, and to not only work hard, and to always be dependable.
What are you most passionate about in your life?
In addition to traveling outside of Alaska, I enjoy spending time at our cabin at Klutina. When I’m at the cabin I appreciate the solitude, and the ability to hunt and fish. Hauling all of the materials myself, I built the cabin by hand with the help of my nephew-in-law and my grandson. Originally, the land belonged to Chief, Jim McKinley, and his father before him, which is near an old mining area. Remnants of the Chief’s original cabin can still be seen. I inherited the land from my cousin, the late Cecelia Larsen, who was Chief McKinley’s daughter.
What hobbies or activities do you enjoy?
Not many people know that in addition to rebuilding classic cars, gun and knife-smithing, that as a machinist, I like to repair old watches. You’d be surprised to know that I probably have repaired enough watches to wear a different one every day for a year! But my collecting has slowed down because of the popular Antiques Roadshow program has made it hard to pick up affordable quality watches that are in need of repair. I currently have a yellow and brown, classic ’56 Oldsmobile that I rebuilt most everything on. I also rebuilt a ‘62 Thunderbird and gave it to my friend, Martin Finnesand, a mechanic, 302 Retired.
What are your hopes for the future of Ahtna?
My hope is that Ahtna will succeed, and that the Ahtna Vision statement, Our Culture Unites Us; Our Land Sustains Us; Our People are Prosperous; can come true.
What is the Board’s vision for Ahtna, Inc?
To be a prosperous company.
What made you want to join the Board?
I knew that being a board member would enable me to be able to help the shareholder-owners have a stronger voice and I want to work to help them receive all of the benefits that they are entitled.
What excites you the most about the Board’s work?
That the board works hard for the shareholders and Ahtna, Inc.
What are some key things you wanted to change/implement when you joined the Board?
Most importantly was to enable the shareholders to have a voice and encourage them to ask question at the annual meeting.
What is one or a few things you would love for all Shareholder-Owners to know about the Board?
I’d like to remind all shareholders that they are welcome to sit in on the board meetings and encourage them to attend. When they are present at the meetings, they can learn what the board is doing to help them. Shareholders can sit in on any regular board meeting whether in Glennallen or Anchorage, but for the executive sessions they would have to step out.
What message would you like to share with the youth of today?
Do not be afraid to leave the village to get work or training. Do not let peer pressure lead you to smoke, drink, or to do drugs. Work hard to be independent and strong.
Can you tell me more about your work history and community involvement?
I’ve been a union member most of my life, I.U.O.E., International Union of Operating Engineers. Local 302. I worked hard to be able to retire after working 20 years and I’ve been retired now for 22 years. When I was working as a mechanic on heavy equipment, it was a dirty and thankless job! The coldest environment I ever worked in was at Prudhoe Bay in -120 degrees below zero wind chill! The hydraulics would freeze up and we could only be outside for 10 minutes at a time. Now that I’m retired I have the time needed to work hard for the shareholders and elders of the Ahtna region. I’m able to truly focus on the issues and commit the time necessary to my position on the board.
Anything else you would like to share?
I feel for Ahtna to remain strong we need to make some changes in the board and to Ahtna. The Elders have the wisdom and we need to support our youth that can carry the torch into the future.