The 20th anniversary of the Kenai River Classic, the fishing event to the political stars made famous during Sen. Ted Steven’s reign, was held this week. Much about the event has changed. These days, Stevens has bigger, celestial fish to fry. Veco’s name is no longer plastered about. Back in the day, the river was choked with kings and the little kings caught were larger than the biggest slivers caught today.
And the legion of East Coast political stars and titans of industry who wanted to brush shoulders with those politicians are now, for the most part, spending dog days with dogs, perhaps. But the event still draws a crowd.
Nearly 400 people attended the annual auction and banquet at Soldotna Sports Center Tuesday evening, and Alaska politicians showed. U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich were on hand. A handful of legislators, including Reps. Bill Stoltze, Craig Johnson, and Sen. Lesil McGuire and Kevin Meyer cast their lines. (Rep. Wes Keller netted third place in the Kenai River Classic Cup with a 12.5 pound silver. First place went to Omar Garcia of South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable for a 13.1-pound silver.)
Bureaucrats, most of whom are involved with fishing issues, showed, as they probably should. But that the Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Bill Streur showed was a little puzzling to some, and plain classic to others who are more cynical about the perks of being a government employee. Indeed, DHSS has been under fire lately, and Streur has been AWOL during legislative hearings where thorny issues like health care programs, federal sequestration, and the department’s more than $2.6 billion budget have been discussed.
It also took Streur away from the only full day of a two day state Health Care Commission meeting. Word is that when he did show up at the health care meeting, he didn’t give any presentations about the health benefits of eating wild salmon. He did, however, tell a fish story or two.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org