With the passing of Senator Chris Birch, I wanted to take some time and reflect on the relationship I had with him. It is difficult to convey in words the impact of a person’s life and the effect they had on you, but I will give it a good faith effort. I first met Chris when I got involved in the Republican Party about five years ago. The event where I met him was a Christmas party at the home of David Cuddy who was hosting the party in honor of a conservative group called United for Liberty.
I was introduced to Chris by my friend Ray Kreig, who was introducing me to different current and former Republican elected officials at the party. I struck up a conversation with Chris about his time on the Anchorage Assembly and what he did and what he learned from his time there. What I appreciated in that conversation was Chris’s knowledge of city government and his desire to continue to be engaged in his community after being elected into office.
If there is one thing I can say for the man it is that he never stopped trying to serve his community and he was always encouraging others to do the same. He was a man of strong conservative principles who was never shy about expressing them and was proud to have been part of the Reagan Revolution in the 1980s.
One very important element of his conservatism was his tireless sense of optimism about the future, which was extremely infectious. He believed that America and Alaska’s best days were ahead and not behind and that it was important for conservatives to convey that at all times. He was also a man who had a great sense of humor that he was willing to share in any social situation he was in. I remember on one occasion seeing Chris at a Young Republicans function and walking over to where he was standing with a group of people. I told Chris that I had a Greenpeace shirt for him as a gift for signing up as a member. Now Chris, who was a pro-resource development guy, was a strong opponent of the activism of Greenpeace gave me a bewildered glance and said that was not possible. At that point I made it clear it was a joke and he and the folks around him burst out laughing. He told me later it was a good practical joke and he would have to pull one on me.
After that event we had a friendly and humorous relationship. I supported him when he ran for state House and later supported him when he decided to move over to the state Senate. My support for him in both of those campaigns always came down to two things — his never-ending crusade to make government smaller and more efficient at all levels and his advocacy for resource development in the state. He returned the favor by encouraging me to run for office, and when I finally did told me to let him know how he could help me in anyway. When I served as a staffer in the Senate for this year’s session I got to see Chris in action in the Senate and what I saw just confirmed all the reasons I had ever supported him for higher office. During the session I witnessed the great humility with which he conducted himself toward other members of the Senate and staff. He always treated me with respect and anytime he saw me in the building he would strike up a conversation with me on how I was doing. I always appreciated our chats, especially as the session wore on and my stress level continued to go up. Another aspect to his public service was how he handled disagreements. He never took them personally and was always seeking collaboration and friendship despite the disagreements he had with people in and out of the Republican Party.
With his passing last week, Alaska has lost a great statesman and whoever replaces him in the Senate will have some big shoes to fill. To his wife Pam and her children, all I can say is thank you for sharing him with so many people and giving him the encouragement to serve the people of Alaska. He was a man who touched and changed the lives of those he met.
To Chris, thank you for the fond memories and may you rest in the peace of God for all eternity.