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Jane Angvik has lived in Alaska for 40 years where she has been a force who brings people together to create better, more open and inclusive communities. She has had great jobs that taught her the power of giving people a voice in decisions about their neighborhoods, their villages, their regions and their state.
She found that when the values of people are solicited and heard, government decision making is enhanced and trust is possible. Additionally, she observed that when people are empowered to participate, they take on personal responsibility to create community; and, when communities become “we” instead of “them and us” our society is strengthened.
Angvik was raised by a conservative Norwegian, Republican father and a liberal Irish, Democratic mother who discussed current affairs at dinner. Her parents told her that she and her siblings could accomplish whatever they dreamt of with hard work and education.
“Giving back” to the community was a practice she observed regularly in her mother. Political discourse was learned at the family dinner table. She grew up hearing an issue respectfully debated from at least two points of view nightly.
Her father advised her to be verbally persuasive and not emotional when expressing a point of view which was a lesson she took to heart. She learned to express a thought, but also to become proficient at summarizing the comments of many people and synthesizing the points of agreement among them. This is one of the skills that make her a great facilitator.
Motivated by the civil rights movement of the late 1960s, Angvik went to work after college for the Minneapolis Model Cities program. There, “maximum feasible citizen participation” was not only the law but was practiced as a precept to enhance community development. She came to Alaska in 1973 and started working for the Greater Anchorage Area Borough on the development of the comprehensive plan. She brought her commitment to citizen participation to her new community and subsequently worked across Alaska over the decades to build opportunities for community dialogues and collaboration.
Angvik has worked for state and local government, Native organizations, nonprofit organizations and consulting firms. She has managed state agencies, coordinated a foundation, planned and built facilities and assisted communities across Alaska in planning their infrastructure and long-range economic strategies. She is a skilled communicator and strategist on a multitude of Alaska issues. She has managed nonprofit and government agencies, coordinated public involvement programs, conducted research projects and advocated for community empowerment in both urban and rural Alaska.
She also has served in elected public office in Anchorage on the local Municipal Assembly and the Charter Commission.
Highlights of her Professional work include: Becoming a community planner for the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1974 where she provided technical assistance to rural villages and organizations to plan for housing and water systems. Her respect for the Alaska Native people continued to grow in community gatherings across the state.
In 1976 Angvik moved to State government and combined her knowledge of urban and rural Alaska when she worked for the Alaska Public Forum created by Governor Hammond. She and her colleagues created town meetings across the state to discuss issues such as the creation of the Permanent Fund, education funding and access to fish and game resources for subsistence. The Public Forum also created the first statewide live television town meetings about the state’s capital budget. The Public Forum was an innovative experiment in public participation that concluded in 1980 due to a lack of funding.
In 1982 Angvik managed the statewide campaign to maintain the Alaska state subsistence law, which provided for a preference for rural residents for access to fish and wildlife to feed their families. It is the only time Alaskans have voted on the question of who should have priority in a time of shortage, and urban Alaskans voted to support rural residents.
From 1983-86 Angvik managed the Alaska Native Foundation (predecessor to First Alaskans Institute) and re-established the leadership training programs for young Alaska Native people. The Foundation also produced a television series about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which is still used in schools today as a part of Alaska studies classes.
In 1988 Angvik managed the Alaska pavilion in Expo 88 in Brisbane, Australia. There 50 business volunteers recruited through the State Chamber of Commerce greeted 15,000 visitors per day for six months. From Expo Angvik was recruited as the Deputy and then the Commissioner of the Department of Commerce and Economic Development. She pursued business leads developed in Australia and was responsible for oversight of the Division of Tourism and Small Business Development. The implementation of the ARDOR program provided connection to many rural communities.
In her next role, Angvik helped plan and develop the Alaska Native Heritage Center from 1990-95. With a statewide committee of Native culture bearers and a consultant, the team designed a facility where people could come together to celebrate Alaska Native cultures. She managed the planning for the project as well as the land-use and political process to site the center at its current location.
After a year of living in Moscow, Russia, with her husband and daughter, Angvik returned to Alaska and was appointed the Director of the Division of Land for the Department of Natural Resources in the Knowles administration. As the “Land Lady” of Alaska’s 103,000 acres, she worked with adjacent land owners to resolve disputes and planned the use of State lands with community involvement. Following DNR, Angvik established her own consulting firm that worked with communities and nonprofit organizations on research projects as well as facilitation of community meetings.
In 1975, at the age of 26, Angvik was elected one of 11 people to serve on the Anchorage Charter Commission which wrote the charter, or the constitution, that unified the city and borough into the unified Municipality of Anchorage. She learned a great deal about politics from her more experienced colleagues and in return, she shared techniques for inviting community participation. To improve communication between neighborhoods and elected officials, the charter sets out the community council structure that has been in place since unification.
In 1979 Angvik was elected to the Anchorage Municipal Assembly. She served the community in that capacity for six years and was the first woman elected Chair of the Assembly. Her experience, competence and expertise in community planning resulted in many forward-thinking policies needed by a growing city. Conversely, Angvik said she thinks the experience of serving was akin to receiving a Ph.D. in applied public administration because of the diversity of topics that came before them for consideration.
In 1986 Angvik was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Alaska’s Democratic primary. Although an Anchorage resident, she was well known politically in rural Alaska. In campaigns the ability to raise funds to advertise one’s candidacy with TV, radio and newspaper ads is a significant challenge for many female candidates. Angvik was able to raise the funds to support her campaign and, although she lost to the incumbent, hers was regarded as a very credible campaign.
She followed this campaign with increased involvement with the Alaska Women’s Political Caucus and has trained hundreds of women candidates in methods of fundraising and managing political campaigns to get more women elected to political office. She thinks the female half of the population needs to be represented in decision-making structures and that women strengthen collaborative ways of making decisions.
A strong advocate of women’s rights, Angvik has dedicated herself to the development of girls and women and their protection against abuse and discrimination. In the past decade she has become a leader of the Girl Scouts of Alaska, being convinced of the importance of starting early to build strong and independent women.
Her legacy associated with these efforts is that she has hired, trained, guided, mentored and encouraged women to seek and accomplish their own goals with skills that enable them to participate in decision making. Additionally the foundation has been laid for the development of the new facilities at Camp Singing Hill for a science, technology, engineering and math program for Girl Scouts.
Angvik a happy and welcoming person. When people inquire how she is, she responds with, words such as: “joyful, terrific and grateful.” She inspires people to counter the hatred and fear of the radio airways with hope, courage and commitment.
She is joyfully married to Vic Fischer, who shares her enthusiasm for social and economic justice, public affairs and entertaining friends and family. They have raised a successful daughter, Ruth, who graduated from the University of Alaska and is married to a member of the armed services and together, they are raising their children to be givers.
She has taught many people you can debate, disagree, find common ground and break bread together. Then, together you can go do what is right. She also believes that people can hear one another better if they share stories and a meal together.
Jane loves Alaska and is happy to share insights about the place with locals and visitors alike… She knows what it is made of and knows how everything got to be how it is. She can break it down and tie it together in a way that anyone can understand.