Dunleavy and his supporters celebrate inauguration in Wasilla

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (center) was surrounded by his family at his inaugural celebration at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla. From left: his daughter Ceil Ann; his brother Francis, of Houston, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah; Mike Dunleavy; his brother William, of Allentown, Pennsylvania; his brother Patrick of Scranton, Pennsylvania; his daughter Catherine; and his daughter Maggie. His wife Rose is obscured in the photo. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Several hundred Alaskans celebrated the inauguration of Mike Dunleavy as governor in Wasilla on Tuesday.

Gust Larson, a retired operating engineer who lives just outside of Wasilla, came to the Menard Sports Center to celebrate.

“We like Dunleavy, and we’re so happy we got rid of what could have been, you know?” Larson said.

Gust Larson, a retired operating engineer, lives just outside of Wasilla. He came to the Menard Sports Center to celebrate Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s inauguration. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Stephen Holmstock struck a similarly hopeful tone. The gospel musician and prison chaplain based in Anchorage expressed optimism about Dunleavy and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer.

“My hope is that they’re authentic and real and that they get down to business and cut through all the bureaucracy and streamline,” Holmstock said. “Probably get rid of a lot of the liberal, progressive gridlock.”

Dunleavy told the crowd that his first experience as governor has been watching “what Alaskans are all about — people helping each other” in response to the earthquake. He praised state and local workers who have helped with the disaster response.

Dunleavy chose Wasilla to hold his first celebration after being sworn into office. The swearing-in ceremony was in Kotzebue on Monday. Later that day Dunleavy also visited Noorvik, the originally-planned venue for the swearing-in.

Dunleavy wouldn’t have won without Matanuska-Susitna Borough. His margin of victory in Mat-Su was slightly more than 20,000 votes, while his statewide vote margin was 19,892.

The event drew state and local leaders, including U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, former Gov. Sean Parnell and former Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan.

Former Mayor Sullivan said former Gov. Bill Walker’s administration provides Dunleavy with an example of what not to do. He also described Mat-Su Borough as the epicenter of conservatism in Alaska.

The governor and his wife Rose Dunleavy live in Wasilla, but they’re moving to the governor’s mansion in Juneau.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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