It’s a uniquely Alaskan equation: a few bucks in pocket, a bit of wanderlust and the energy of youth are all that many need to find their way to, and make a new life in, Alaska.
That’s true for Lynda Giguere who retired at the end of May as our Director of Public Outreach. “I got my first real job at 12, and have always had some responsibility or something to look after, from a work sense,” Lynda says.
In more than 50 years in the workforce she’s done everything from flipping hamburgers, waitressing, and “speedy checking” in Maine, to guiding wilderness expeditions, promoting a theatre company, to working for two Alaska governors.
In 1975, her plan was to join the Coast Guard. But back then, there really wasn’t a career path on ships for women in that branch of the service. She’d already spent a year exploring Europe, North Africa, and part of Asia after high school. So she put her beloved ‘54 Studebaker Commander in storage and with $500, raised from the sale of her stereo, began her trek west, hitchhiking across Canada. She would meet her husband, Rick Clair–who was hitchhiking to Alaska from Kalamazoo–in Vancouver Island, BC, before continuing north. After two months on the road, Lynda arrived in Juneau with $80 in her pocket. Rick with $20. (He obviously married her for her money.)
Construction on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was just heating up and there were all sorts of opportunities for people coming into the state. “Alaska was really the wild west, with rowdy saloons and dance halls. Housing was tight but jobs were plentiful. You could feel the excitement of a growing state and really do and be whatever you wanted,” Lynda says.
And she tried it all. She landed her first state job in the Office of Governor Jay Hammond, who along with his wife, Bella and their family became lifelong friends. She worked in the Press Office of Governor Tony Knowles, for four Alaska legislators, and two departments, eventually racking up more than 22 years with the State of Alaska.
She honed her expertise in public and community relations working for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for six years as their public information officer. That work would prove a great stepping stone to helping fulfill the mission of CIRCAC, where she started in 2012.
She says the best things about working for CIRCAC were feeling valued, trusted and encouraged to be creative. “I worked with a great group of people who supported each other,” she said. “I was in charge of my own program and given a lot of latitude to make it work. It made for an exciting, interesting, and fulfilling job. What more could one hope for after a long and varied career?”
But retirement doesn’t mean slowing down, not for Lynda. “This is an amazing group of people and I’ll miss working with them more than they know. But kayaking beckons.”
We wish Lynda and Rick the best in retirement and hope to see lots more photos from some well-earned adventure and travel.