Leaving Alaska

Ken Andersen headed Reid Middleton’s Anchorage, Alaska, office for 15 years and is settling back in to our Everett, Washington, structural engineering group. He leaves our Anchorage office in the capable hands of David Stierwalt, who has been with Reid Middleton since 2001. Here, Ken looks back fondly on his time in Alaska, memories made all the sweeter by the knowledge that he has taken a piece of the Last Frontier with him.

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Alaska Will Always Be a Part of Me

Somewhere, I heard the expression, “You can take the man out of Alaska, but you can never take Alaska out of the man.” I don’t know who coined the expression or who it was about, but I’m feeling like I’m becoming that man.

Why do I feel this way? For the past 15 years, I’ve managed Reid Middleton’s Anchorage office. This past December, my wife and I relocated to the Seattle area where I will finish my career in Reid Middleton’s corporate office in Everett, Washington. I was born in Petersburg, Alaska, and have always considered myself to be a “lifelong” Alaskan. Truth be told, I’ve spent only 40 of my 60 years in Alaska, and the remainder in the Seattle area. So, if I’m somewhat short of having spent my entire life in Alaska, why do I claim this lifelong status?

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation’s slogan that they are from, “a place that’s always been,” has always struck a chord with me — as my family, on my mother’s side, has always been in Alaska. We can trace our family’s Alaska roots back to my great, great grandmother who was born on Attu in 1860 when Alaska was still owned by Russia! The family migrated next to Akutan and then to Naknek in Bristol Bay. I was raised to be proud of our native heritage and Aleut ancestry – to be proud of being from Alaska. So, Alaska has always been a major part of who I am, regardless of where I was living.

Time for a Change

Why leave Alaska? Lots of reasons. Three out of our four kids are no longer in Alaska. We have a grandkid in Seattle and another one on the way. I’ve worked and played all over Alaska, from Ketchikan to Barrow to Shemya. And although there’s still much of the state that I haven’t seen, both my wife and I are looking forward to an opportunity to explore new territory in the Lower 48. As I told a friend, I’m looking forward to driving six hours and being someplace other than Homer, Fairbanks, or Tok.

Will I miss Alaska? You bet! I have a large extended family. We have close friends. Professional colleagues from working 35 years in Alaska. And I’ll miss what I call the two degrees of separation that exists in Alaska – how easy it is to know someone who knows someone else – to make that connection in two iterations instead of seven. Anchorage, even with 300,000 people, has that “Cheers” feel to it – a place where everyone knows your name. Whether it’s going to a movie, dinner, or grocery shopping -it’s so easy to run into someone you know.

So yeah, I will miss Alaska (although I have to admit I won’t miss our recent winters!). And whoever coined that expression – they are right. A large part of me will always be in Alaska.