Bill Sheffield, former Alaska governor, dies at age 94

Nov 4, 2022, 1:30 PM | Updated: 5:45 pm
FILE - Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield, who later became director of the Port of Anchorage, stand...

FILE - Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield, who later became director of the Port of Anchorage, stands on the bridge over Ship Creek in Anchorage, Alaska, in Friday, Jan. 15, 2005. Sheffield has died. He was 94. A statement provided by friends says he died Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, at his home in Anchorage. Sheffield was governor from 1982 to 1986. (AP Photo/Al Grillo,File)

(AP Photo/Al Grillo,File)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Bill Sheffield, a former Alaska governor whose term in office was roiled by an impeachment proceeding, has died. He was 94.

A statement provided by friends of Sheffield said he died Friday at his home in Anchorage.

John Pugh, a friend who was the state health commissioner under Sheffield and among those who spent time with him before his death, said Sheffield regularly talked about ways to move Alaska forward. He “had all kinds of ideas, even in the last few months as he was really declining, on economic development in Alaska,” Pugh said.

Sheffield, who was governor from 1982 to 1986, was accused of steering a lease for state office space to a political ally and lying about it. He was not indicted by a grand jury but the panel recommended the Legislature consider impeachment. The state Senate decided there was not enough evidence to impeach.

Sheffield told The Associated Press in 1986 he believed his willingness to make hard choices in a state budget crisis cost him a second term.

Sheffield lost the Democratic party primary that year to Steve Cowper, who went on to be elected governor.

“I probably made some mistakes, but when you want to get things done and you came out of the private sector like I did, you’re going to run into the bureaucracy,´´ Sheffield said after the primary loss.

´´I didn’t run for governor just to be governor. I did it to do things. There’s a lot of things we need to do in this state and we don’t need to wait forever to get them done,” he said.

Sheffield, a successful hotelier, sold that business in 1987, according to his obituary. He went on to leadership positions with the Alaska Railroad Corp. and the Port of Anchorage.

Former Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican, in a statement said Sheffield “always envisioned big possibilities for Alaskans and Alaska. He personally lived and experienced the Great Land’s promise: building Alaska businesses, serving in public office and helping others into public office. He dreamed big about Alaska infrastructure and held friends close.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski on social media said Sheffield contributed much to the state. “Bill was a warm and caring person who will be deeply missed but his friendship will not be forgotten,” she said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, also offered condolences.

Republican U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan said Sheffield was “a veteran, an entrepreneur, a statesman.”

“After office, he continued serving, contributing to numerous causes and receiving countless awards and recognition for his public service. He was kind, warm, generous, and always there for so many, regardless of political affiliation,” Sullivan said on social media.

Pugh said Sheffield was caring and believed in mentoring young people. One of Sheffield’s directives to members of his administration was to “get out and find out what the needs are and address the needs of the people,” Pugh said.

He said he sees the impeachment proceedings as a footnote in Sheffield’s public service career. He noted accomplishments during Sheffield’s term, including the completion of efforts for the state to take over the Alaska Railroad and support of the Red Dog Mine.

Sheffield is survived by his longtime companion, Cheri McGuire.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Bill Sheffield, former Alaska governor, dies at age 94