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Headline in the Anchorage Daily News over Flynn’s picture: “Velvet and Razorblades.” January, 1983
Heather Flynn may not always be gentle. Her reputation for thorough preparation, asking piercing questions and demanding truthful and understandable responses has earned her the above caption of Velvet and Razorblades.
Knowledgeable, passionate, fierce advocant and tenacious fundraiser – that’s Heather Flynn. Hard work, depth of knowledge and breadth of experience all describe Flynn.
She began her 50 years of service working as a teacher for every group from preschoolers to graduate school. As a Romig social studies teacher, she stressed the understanding of and respect for world cultures and religions. Her students were required to have knowledge of local, state, national and international issues. Many of her students went on to serve in education, business and human services.
Flynn’s teaching didn’t end in the classroom. In all her pursuits, both political and professional, she mentored staff, students and women in transition. Former staff members observe: “She pushes me to be a better person.” “She confronts me with hard truths, she stands up for me, always has my back.” “Heather works for a better community, quality education; family services; quality, affordable child care; access to arts and recreation.” “Heather can seem like a whirling dervish, but her brain just works fast. As a boss, she has high expectations of you, and won’t ever ask you to do anything she won’t do herself.”
The League of Women Voters provided a strong basis for Flynn’s activism in education, housing, land use planning and welfare reform. It was the League that developed the Alaska Legislative Information Office and optional education programs. She credits the League for encouraging her to put her knowledge and training into public office.
She was elected to the Anchorage School Board in 1975, serving six years, twice as president. Noted for thorough homework and financial expertise, the ASD Superintendent of Finance once said, “I know the budget balances when my numbers agree with Flynn’s.” For several years, she worked in Juneau to enhance education funding not only for Anchorage, but for school districts throughout rural Alaska.
Flynn was elected to the Anchorage Assembly in 1983 and served 10 years, five as the only woman. Once again, thorough in preparation, she was an expert in budget and finance, planning and zoning, and utilities.
Always an advocate for women and children, she supported quality, affordable, accessible childcare, parks and recreation programs, libraries and, of course, adequate school funding.
And equal opportunity – In 1971 Flynn successfully challenged the school district’s maternity policy of forced resignation in the fourth month, thereby teaching to her own due date and opening equality of opportunity to all women. And she passionately advocates choice for women.
Service in public office did not pay the mortgage, so working full time in nonprofit management drew her talents. A colleague once stated that her business card should read “resurrectionist.” She took on challenges, organizations that had financial, personnel or governance issues, often all of the above, stabilized them raising capital, training staff, even recruiting board members. She often trained her successors, and moved on to the next challenge.
An advocate for women and children, she passionately educated the community on the high cost of violence. As the executive director of AWAIC, Flynn utilized her simultaneous service on the Anchorage Assembly as an opportunity to work with and train police, the courts, human service agencies and the business community.
Utilizing her AWAIC experience, she was a primary force behind the establishment of a shelter for abused women and children in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia in 1995 and consulted in the development of shelters in Oregon, Arizona and Turkey.
Flynn worked to align non-degree programs (GED and workforce development) at University of Alaska Anchorage. She finally retired in 2000. But that ended quickly when she joined another grassroots foundation to earn money for education.
A renown fundraiser, upon receiving the ATHENA Award in 2010, it was announced that “when you see Heather coming, just get out your checkbook.” Among others, AWAIC, AWRC, United Way, YWCA, Alaska Community Foundation, Planned Parenthood, public radio, Anchorage Museum, Anchorage Symphony and innumerable political candidates owe their success to her fundraising efforts.
Flynn’s efforts weren’t limited to fundraising. Whether addressing an employee about career development or scolding a man about his unhealthy smoking habit, she inserted herself where she believed it was needed.
All these organizations and individuals benefit from her personal philanthropy. In addition to supporting her undergraduate institutions, Flynn donates 50% of her gross income to her passions annually and has dedicated her estate to the ongoing success of organizations that serve the needs of women and children, education and the arts and to make our community a better place.
Finally, Heather takes pride in her wonderful children, Patrick Flynn and his wife Tina Grovier and their two children; and Lucy Flynn O’Quinn and her husband Brian O’Quinn. Having an activist mother (or mother-in-law) isn’t always easy. Flynn appreciates their support (and good behavior!) and their own contributions toward making Anchorage and the state of Alaska an even better place for everyone.
She has served on the following boards and commissions: Anchorage Equal Right Commission, League of Women Voters, Alaska Municipal League, National League of Cities, Anchorage Opera, YWCA, National Public Radio Council, Anchorage Museum, Denali Federal Credit Union
Alaska Community Foundation, Anchorage Senior Center Advisory
Soroptimist of Cook Inlet and Anchorage East Rotary.
Flynn has received the following honors and awards (among others): YWCA Woman of Achievement, ATHENA Award, Alaska Legislative Service Award, AFP Philanthropist of the Year and Willamette University Distinguished Alumni Citation.
Flynn’s Resume (2019)
836 M Street, #307
Heather Flynn has more than 45 years of professional, political and volunteer experience in nonprofit development and management, fundraising and community relations.
Heather has directed two nonprofit human service agencies meeting the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, pregnant teens and recovering substance abusers. She has trained United Way agency directors and served as allocations chair. She is retired from the University of Alaska where she was the Director of the Adult Learning Center, managing all ABE, ESL and GED programs as well as the development and management of multiple Welfare to Work and HUD programs.
Ms. Flynn served two terms on the Anchorage School Board and ten years on the Anchorage Assembly where she distinguished herself in matters of budget and finance, labor relations, planning and zoning, health issues and utility regulation. She is past president of the Alaska Municipal League and served on the Board of Directors of the National League of Cities.
Ms. Flynn has volunteered in many civic, social, educational and political arenas. She was instrumental in the development of the Legislative Information Office and has served on boards as diverse as the Anchorage Opera, the Equal Rights Commission, the YWCA, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Convention & Visitors Bureau. She has consulted with school districts, municipalities and nonprofit organizations in several states, Mongolia and Turkey. She currently serves on the boards of the Anchorage Museum, Denali Federal Credit Union and NPR Council.
Ms. Flynn has published articles and academic papers on subjects ranging from property appraisal to school curriculum to economic development, and wrote a regular column for the local newspaper.
Heather has a B.A. from Willamette University, attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and has a Master’s from UAA.
Ms. Flynn has been widely honored for a lifetime of achievement including the Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award, YWCA Woman of Achievement, Alaska Legislature Service Award, AFP Philanthropist of the Year and Willamette University Distinguished Alumni Citation.
Heather is a widow, has two children and two grandchildren.