As the end of September nears, students and professors alike have begun to settle into their semester routine. Associate Professor of Public Health, Liz Snyder, however, has set her sights on something new: the Alaska State Legislature.
“I’m going to bust my tail for the people I’m representing. I don’t think we’ve gotten that, and we deserve it,” Snyder said.
Snyder began visiting Alaska at a young age and says that moving to the state and raising her family was always on her mind. That opportunity came when Snyder was offered a teaching position at UAA in 2009 after graduating from the University of Florida with a doctorate in soil and water science.
Upon moving to Anchorage, Snyder and her husband rented an apartment in Government Hill before deciding to move to East Anchorage and start a family.
Snyder was drawn to East Anchorage by accessible public parks and outdoor recreational activities, but also because of the diversity of the residents and neighborhoods.
“I love that we get to meet people that aren’t just like us, and we learn from each other. I think [that] makes for a rich experience growing up for my kids,” Snyder said.
House District 27 encompasses parts of Northeast Anchorage, the Muldoon curve and Scenic Foothills. Snyder is running against incumbent Lance Pruitt (R- Anchorage) who has been in office since 2011, serving as the House Majority Leader and a member of the Finance Committee.
Samantha Reisher, a UAA student majoring in English with a minor in political science, grew up in House District 27.
“My neighborhood was an area with a lot of young families… I grew up around kids who were different from me,” Reisher said. “I had a rich childhood, and I don’t think I necessarily would have gotten that growing up in a different [area] of town.”
Reisher has enjoyed watching her neighborhood come “full circle” again as the children she grew up with have grown, and many new young families have moved in on her old street.
After Snyder’s family was impacted by crime and feeling discontent with Pruitt’s job as her representative, Snyder was motivated to run.
Since residing in East Anchorage, Snyder’s family has had cars “rifled through” multiple times, and back in February, a family vehicle was stolen right out of their driveway. An even more frightening incident took place five years ago, involving two people driving under the influence and crashing into the trees on Snyder’s property.
“[They] crashed right outside my children’s bedroom window,” Snyder said.
Incidents such as these had her questioning the safety of her neighborhood and helped motivate her to run for House District 27.
As a university professor and a mother of two, Snyder’s other main legislative priority is education.
“I would be a champion for education across the board… I see what the university can do, what we’re already doing well and what we can do better,” Snyder said.
For Snyder, education as a priority includes not only the university but also strong K-12, pre-kindergarten and vocational training programs. Snyder believes that cuts to education contribute to many of the problems currently facing Anchorage and the state.
“[Lance Pruitt] is perfectly happy with cutting funding to education without recognizing that things are connected,” Snyder said. “Just because you don’t see an immediate connection or implication doesn’t mean they don’t have ripple effects.”
Alumna Melissa Wilson obtained both her bachelor’s of human services and her master’s degrees from UAA. Wilson worked closely with Snyder, who served as Wilson’s thesis advisor, before graduating with her masters in public health in the spring of 2015.
“She has high expectations of her students… She expects performance, and she likes a high work ethic,” Wilson said. “But she’s not biased, and she holds herself to those same standards.”
Wilson credits Snyder as the reason why she was able to pass a bio-statistics class.
“That [class] was my nemesis… I’m not going to say it was a fun class but [Snyder] is really good at communicating and that made it manageable,” Wilson said.
The Permanent Fund Dividend has become one of the biggest state issues this election cycle. Snyder would like to see a consistent, moderate PFD in order for families to plan around it. Snyder is open to and intrigued by ideas, such as incorporating the PFD into the Alaska Constitution.
“For lower income families, even a small change in that PFD can be a big change in household income,” Snyder said. “Getting rid of that fluctuation would be great… I think the shorthand answer would [be] to have the biggest PFD we can afford while also not short-changing education, public safety and infrastructure development.”
Additionally, Snyder would like to see an increase on oil taxes.
“I would like to see us get our fair share from [oil companies] and, compared to other places that are oil producing, we don’t,” Snyder said.
Snyder has already been endorsed by the National Education Association, Planned Parenthood, The Alaska Center and The American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The deadline to register to vote for the general election is Oct. 7.
To find more information on what will be on the general election ballot and locate your local polling enter, visit the Alaska Division of Election’s website at http://www.elections.alaska.gov.