Anchorage Assembly renames port after Don Young

Large cranes and stacks of shipping containers
The Port of Alaska on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023. (Dev Hardikar/Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage Assembly decided Tuesday night that the name of Alaska’s late congressman should be attached to the city’s port after all

It took about an hour of discussion and procedural maneuvering before the Assembly finally arrived at a straight up-or-down vote to change the name from the Port of Alaska to the Don Young Port of Alaska.

With his widow Anne Garland Young following the meeting in person, the name change passed in a 10-2 vote. Members Karen Bronga and Meg Zaletel voted no.

Mayor Dave Bronson said Young was in his office the week before he died in 2022.  

“And he says, ‘If you ever get around to naming that port, I’d like it to be named after me, if you don’t mind,’” Bronson said. “Quite frankly, that’s why we’re here today, is because Don was a friend of mine. He was a gentleman of the highest order and I just thought it’s right that the dean of the House got the port named after him that he actually requested.” 

Assembly Chair Chris Constant supported the name change but discouraged making Young out as a saint. 

“It’s not been fair to an honest record of Don Young’s life and story in Alaska,” Constant said. “It was great and it was terrible and it was everything. It was life! And we should not practice hagiography in undoing the stories and making false narratives about people.”

Constant, a Democrat, said he respected Young, a Republican, especially for actions toward the end of his life. Constant highlighted Young’s words in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol – that he was appalled by the violence and destruction – and his vote for the massive federal infrastructure bill.

Constant framed both as Young looking out for Alaska and the nation, while rejecting his party’s positions. 

Don Young died in March of 2022. He was the most senior member of Congress at the time, representing Alaska in the House of Representatives continuously since 1973. 

The new name for the port is a partial rejection of a renaming panel’s recommendation. The panel wanted the place referenced in the name to change as well, so that it became “The Don Young Port of Anchorage.”

Historically, the facility was known as the Port of Anchorage until the Assembly changed it to the Port of Alaska in 2017. It was a symbolic move, in part to convey to legislators who fund infrastructure projects the port’s importance to the entire state.

By weight, most goods that enter Alaska pass through the port. 

a portrait of a man outside

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him atjhsieh@alaskapublic.orgor 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremyhere.

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