POLDINE (Demoski) CARLO
POLDINE (Demoski) CARLO
Poldine Carlo, an Athabascan Indian, was born December 5, 1920 in Nulato, Alaska. She was a founding member, along with three others in the formation of the Fairbanks Native Association (FNA), setting the stage to what has become an organization leading changes in the community through service and legislation over the years. Her knowledge, wisdom, and persistence have guided the creation and growth of FNA. What started as four people meeting around Carlo’s kitchen table has grown into a multi-million dollar organization with staff of over 200.
Carlo is also an active member of the Denakkanaaga Board of Directors, the University of Alaska Chancellor’s Advisory Committee, Alaska Native Education Advisory Board, North Star Borough Senior Citizens Commission, Alaska Bicentennial Commission Board, Aboriginal Senior Citizens of Alaska and many other organizations, including the Koyukon Athabascan Singers.
She serves as an elder/mentor during the World Eskimo/Indian Olympics and can be seen participating in every Doyon, Limited shareholder meeting. Through her early demonstration of gathering people, Carlo continues to accept any opportunity to show support to those in times of need by volunteering her support. For more than 15 years, Carlo shared Athabascan traditions with children through a program of cultural enrichment in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, continuing to teach different groups today upon request.View Extended Bio Close Extended Bio
Karen Perdue is a lifelong Alaskan, who was raised in Fairbanks Alaska and after a successful career in public policy which has included health, higher education, and community development in Washington DC and Juneau, she has returned to her community to work and retire. She has been aided over the years by great mentors, cooperative colleagues, inspiring bosses, and supportive Board members through the years.
Perdue learned about public service by watching her parents, Ralph and Dorothy Perdue. As a child she took part in many of the same volunteer activities her parents took part in as they advocated for the native community in Fairbanks. An example of their advocacy is the Alaska Boarding Home Program which the Perdues created and implemented. The Alaska Boarding Home Program welcomed kids from rural villages into their home, giving the children a chance to attend Junior High and High School in Fairbanks. In the 1950 and 60’s, school options for village kids ended at the 6th grade.
In keeping with their service to village Alaska, another family task was supporting the Tundra Times. Howard Rock, the publisher of the Tundra Times was a family friend and shared their opinion it was important to share the discussions on Native land claims with people across rural Alaska. In these activities, the Perdues were always encouraging their daughters to take risks and to give back to the community.
When Perdue was in high school, she became a student reporter, reporting on youth activities for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner. There, she was inspired by journalism and encouraged by Judy Brady. Several adult mentors aided Perdue, by proofreading her stories, explaining the processes of research and information gathering.
While at the News Miner, and still in high school, Perdue met Senator Ted Stevens. It was through this connection that Senator Stevens invited Perdue to be a summer intern in his DC office. Perdue ascribes much of her later success in public service to the lessons learned from her mentors while at the News Miner. She went on to write and publish a weekly newspaper, The River Times, with high school students from Interior Villages. The River Times won an Alaska Press Award for best non-daily newspaper.
The development of the Trans Alaska pipeline shifted Perdue’s focus, she worked as a Teamster on the pipeline for four summers, a work schedule that was fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. Recently she reflected that it was working on the pipeline where she learned how to get along in a “man’s world”, she also learned how to choose her battles wisely and win. She drove trucks through the Brooks Range and eventually became a warehouse foreman, leading an all-woman and minority crew. By this time, she had learned the value of union representation – particularly crucial in a time of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Through her work on the pipeline Perdue earned enough to pay for her tuition at Stanford University. While working on the pipeline was a learning experience, attending a large university was a major learning experience for a girl from a little northern town. She studied broadly including literature, music, and science, graduating in 1978.
The summer after graduation Perdue was volunteering in the Ted Stevens booth at the Tanana Valley Fair, when Senator Stevens stopped by. Senator Stevens remembered Perdue and upon learning she had recently graduated, he offered her a job on the spot.
Perdue reported for duty in Washington DC in December of 1978. This was a challenging time for the Senator and his office as his wife Ann and several others had recently died in a plane crash. Perdue was hired as Assistant Press Secretary and the press office was crucial to helping a grieving Senator as he navigated the restart of legislation on the Alaska National Interest Conservation Act (ANILCA) and a new Congress.
As a result, Perdue came to be immersed in the details of ANILCA. This was a conflict-ridden law regulating land use of millions of acres of land throughout Alaska. In addition to ANILCA, Perdue began to work on other legislative matters, where she learned the art of negotiation and how to collaborate with people of diverging opinions.
She returned to Alaska in 1981 when Lt Governor Terry Miller offered her a position in the Hammond Administration. Miller was from her hometown, and inspired by his talent and leadership, Perdue wanted to help run for Governor against Bill Sheffield. Ultimately, Miller was talented but not elected.
As Sheffield staffed his administration, he offered Perdue a job as the Director of Community Development, formally the Department of Community and Regional Affairs. Perdue agreed and quickly learned the various programs the Division offered. It was while working as the Director of Community Development, Perdue developed professional relationships with colleagues across the state and in its communities. These working relationships that have lasted a lifetime.
In 1985 Governor Sheffield offered Perdue the opportunity to become Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). And again, Perdue said yes. It was as the here Perdue became familiar with the administrative and financial structure of the DHSS. She also became aware of the DHSS’s status as one of the most complex departments in state government and of the Departments challenges supplying essential services to Alaska residents. In this public service role, she learned of the many of the complexities existing in the lives of Alaskans.
Perdue spent countless hours working with advocates to settle Mental Health Trust Lands issues, resulting in the creation of the Alaska Mental Trust Authority.
In 1989 she returned to Fairbanks and became a Consultant and a Partner in Northern Research and Planning Company, here she worked on developing standards and evaluation tools for health and social service providers, and community-based health systems for children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
In 1994 Perdue was appointed by Governor Knowles to serve as the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services in Juneau. Perdue served in the position for eight years, making her the longest serving DHSS Commissioner since statehood.
The DHSS addresses many of the complex issues of life and death for the citizens of Alaska. She grew to understand that government touches the lives of the poor, the sick and the young in so many ways. It became her goal to assure that her team would make these encounters as helpful as possible, particularly for children. Perdue championed the expansion of the Medicaid waiver system, minimizing the barriers to health insurance, and created the Denali Kid Care health insurance program, which has provided health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of pregnant moms and children over the years.
From a management perspective, Perdue set the tone for the 2,200+ person agency by seeking to generate the best in each staff member. She found listening during brainstorming sessions generated broad ideas of how to enhance the agency’s service delivery.
With the goal of improving the lives of the developmentally disabled individuals, her team closed large institutional care facilities, and created instead small group homes and independent living options. She led the state’s efforts in welfare reform, child protection, juvenile justice, and championed an initiative addressing fetal alcohol syndrome.
After nearly a decade in Juneau, she returned home to Fairbanks, where she accepted the role of Associate Vice President of Health Programs at the University of Alaska. There she worked with industry, University Chancellors, and faculty in the expansion of the academic programs of nursing, medical education, pharmacy, and behavioral health.
In her ten years of service in this role, Perdue engaged a team of colleagues who re-imagined the higher education delivery system, one which used a concept of Distance Education and advances in telecommunications and technology. As a result, students throughout Alaska, including remote and rural locations gained access to higher education and the University system was able to develop professionals in communities across Alaska.
A paradigm shift was beginning in health education. Instead of perceiving rural campus as a “constraint to education”, students in rural communities were becoming valued as “committed to place” because students educated in their own communities tended to stay and practice in those communities- a key strategy in breaking the cycle of high turnover within the healthcare professions. A new system where Alaska professionals could be grown to serve their home communities as nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, therapists, and behavior health care providers had been developed.
Importantly, long before the Covid Pandemic, the University of Alaska administrators, staff and students, had developed a distance delivery system for education and the University easily adapted to the constraints caused by the Pandemic.
Today the University of Alaska is a world leader in higher education distance delivery to non-campus communities. This is a a valuable alternative to traveling alone without a support system for students around the world.
Utilizing the University’s Distance Delivery System, Perdue and her team created pathways for rural individuals to become a registered nurses in 16 communities throughout Alaska, this program has been adopted multiple other professions.
While serving as the Vice President of the University, Perdue engaged in other projects that celebrated the history of Alaska and the growing awareness that Alaska had a role to play in international Arctic science and policy. She served as the Principal Investigator of “Eight Stars of Gold”, a multi-year project to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Alaska’s writing of its Constitution. The project collected historic materials from libraries and museums to produce two National Emmy award winning one-hour public television documentaries. The Alaska Constitution was written at a convention hosted at the University of Alaska in 1955. All living delegates were invited to a two-day community event that was held on the Fairbanks campus to discuss the constitution. Particularly important were activities that involved high school and college students in meeting and learning from the original people that wrote Alaska’s constitution.
Perdue served for 10 years as a United States Representative to the Arctic Council, an eight-nation government to government forum on artic issues promoting cooperation in the Arctic. The member nations of the Arctic Council are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. She represented the USA on matters of sustainable development across the Arctic region, including how Arctic peoples could be involved in the changing Arctic as the climate changes and development continued.
She also served as an Investigator of a report entitled, “The Forgotten Alaskans: The Morningside Hospital Project”. Where she led a team of volunteer researchers from Alaska, Washington DC, and Oregon in the reconstruct the history of Morningside Hospital, in Portland Oregon, where as many as 5,000 of Alaska’s mentally ill stayed from 1901-1967. For her, the true importance of this project resulted from her efforts to learn of the fate of a family member. Additionally, though her experience in the field of mental health, she understood the unresolved grief and trauma from people being permanently removed from their communities for care.
From 2010 to 2015 Perdue served as the President and CEO of the Alaska Hospital and Nursing Home Association. She represented Alaska’s industry in meetings with the Governor and the state administration and legislature, the federal government, and the US Congress.
In 2017 Perdue was appointed to the University of Alaska Board of Regents. She serves as the vice chair of the board. She is semi-retired, focusing her work on critical public health issues, serving on the Board of Directors of Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation.
She is the recipient of numerous awards including the National Rural Mental Health Association Victor Mowery Award and the Alaska Historical Society for her role in the Forgotten Alaskans Morningside Project. She has been honored by both the Girl and Boy Scouts as a Distinguished citizen. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2017.
The actions of Perdue throughout her life have been of public service to the state and the people of Alaska. Marty Rutherford, a former colleague and close friend for over 40 years said
“Karen’s ongoing commitment to Alaskans, and particularly Alaska’s health systems that serve us all, is limitless. One of the aspects of her personality that has always inspired me is the thoughtfulness, hard work and energy she generates for any effort or organization to which she’s committed. Frankly, she’s not only one of my dearest friends, but also one of my hero’s.”
Perdue has been married to Charles Bettisworth since 1988. They are “Mops and Pops” to 4 children and are proud of their 6 grandchildren. For 40 years they have roamed the waters of Southeast Alaska in their trawler and the rivers of Interior Alaska. Perdue has become a collector of Alaska history items and of indigenous ethnographic material preserve these treasures for future generations.