Dennis Egan served in the Alaska Legislature as Juneau’s senator for a decade, leaving a lasting impression as a gruff-but-charming fixture of the building and an icon of Alaska’s capital city.
He died early this morning at the age of 75, according to an announcement from the Alaska Senate Democrats. Egan did not seek reelection in 2018, citing health issues that made representing his district difficult.
“Dennis was larger than life. He charmed just about everyone he ever met. I once watched him tell a lobbyist there was no way he’d ever vote for a bill, and the guy still left with a smile on his face,” said Sen. Jesse Kiehl, who worked for Egan before winning his seat following Egan’s retirement. “Dennis always listened to his community, was a straight shooter, and truly respected the people around him. Alaska was his home, he put Alaskans first, and his heart belonged to Juneau.”
Egan also served as the mayor of Juneau from 1995 to 2000, having previously served on the Juneau Assembly. He also worked in the city’s radio world and was regularly on KINY’s airwaves.
In a story by KTOO after he announced his retirement, Egan was remembered as an “old-school dealmaker” who could swear up a storm and still find compromise.
“That directness is what people find endearing, as well as the way he talks. You know, that old, salty, gruff Alaska stuff,” said legislative aide Christopher Clark, who had worked for Egan and covered him as a former reporter. “If he’s polite to you, run like hell. If he’s yelling, cussing at you, then you’re in. It’s OK. That’s kind of like ‘Old Alaska.’ It’s that old affability.”
Reflecting on his time in the building, Egan told KTOO that building relationships was a critical part of being an effective legislator.
“As long as they remember, no matter if you are an R or a D — doesn’t matter,” said Egan. “You’ve gotta be a people person. You have to get along. You have to listen to the other side. You may hate it. You may not like it, but you have to give folks the courtesy of listening.”
And it was those friends that he’d miss most about being a legislator.
“But it’s the little things. You don’t know how much you miss them,” he said. “And friends I’ve made, it’s really tough. Really tough … It’s the end of a couple of eras.”
We’ll miss our friend Dennis, too.