A confirmation hearing today in the Senate Finance Committee was described as, “One of the weirdest ever” by Senator Bill Wielechowski (D – Anchorage). Cachet Garrett was appointed as the student representative to the Board of Regents last year by Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska). The Senate Finance Committee held a confirmation hearing for her this morning. Earlier today someone in the Capitol asked me if I saw “that really weird hearing in Senate Finance?” I have since watched. I’m not sure the word weird gives it justice.
The hearing starts off with Garrett, who called in, asking for a land acknowledgment. Senator Bert Stedman (R – Sitka), who was chairing the meeting, did not seem to understand what she was asking. Senator David Wilson (R – Wasilla) explained she wanted to acknowledge the ancestral lands of where she was speaking. It really pops off from there.
She begins by thanking a laundry list of people including Governor Dunleavy, his team, Gina Ritacco, Courtney Enright, the legislature, fellow regents (all by name), God, her mentors (by name), her mother and father for, “raising me to be comfortable with heavy topics, such as death and dying,” her faculty, and the students of Alaska. At that point Stedman interrupts her and frustratingly tells her he wants to hear about her education, work history, position on the powers of appropriation of the legislature, the direction of the University, and why the Committee should support her appointment.
Garrett responded by saying she was headed there. She talks about her education and then how she went to Hawaii to become a licensed massage therapist. She said she then moved to Fairbanks for graduate school. She said she is studying, “The intersection of communication and leadership, all things Alaska, the Arctic, the circumpolar north, the needs of the state in the near future with a focus on climate and global changes.” She goes on from there.
When asked why she wanted to be on the Board of Regents she spoke about how highly qualified she is and how she represents three communities. She then gave an analogy likening the University to a caterpillar. Here is what she said, word for word:
Imagine, if you will, a caterpillar. And I do not wish to demean this beautiful caterpillar. But I just want to acknowledge that it is limited to the ground and the plants that it can climb upon. We are a caterpillar in a cocoon right now. We are going through a metamorphosis. In this process the caterpillar literally metabolizes itself as it grows a new body and becomes something improved. It’s a painful process. The caterpillar emerges a beautiful, high flying butterfly.
She then added, “To be perfectly honest, the University is undergoing a dark night of the soul. Now this is necessary for the transformation that we are seeking.”
Then the questions from committee members started. Senator Wilson asked her if her political aspirations, that she listed on her bio, would interfere with her duties on the Board of Regents. She responded:
Well it doesn’t actually. In now way, shape, or form. Completely separate. The calling to be a leader of the state, that’s a calling that I will answer and that I must answer. The reason I’m alive on the planet, if you will. And it’s a future, it’s an aspiration for my life. I am not a politician. I am a public servant. And I enjoy the service to the people of Alaska and the State of Alaska. We are coming into highly challenging times across our state. I know I don’t need to tell you all the things on our list that we will have to tackle in the near future. But I know that I’m up to the task. And it’s separate, and after my graduate studies. The graduate program is the initial first step. I’m training myself for future state leadership.
It got real loose when Senator Wielechowski asked what she is studying. He said her bio on the Board of Regents website said she is studying communications but that an interview she gave said was studying Arctic and Northern Studies. She responded that she came to UAF to be a teaching assistant in the professional communication program, but learned quickly that she had been communicating professionally for many years. She said the program was not for her and added, “I’ll always be a communications scholar.” She said the Arctic and Northern Studies program was a better fit for her.
Wielechowski then asked her if she was asked to leave the communications program. She said no, but then said, “I have not actually formally left the communication program. And I do consider myself an interdisciplinary student. Which is the way of the future.”
Wielichowski then asks her if she has ever been disciplined or asked to leave the communications program. She responded:
Yes, I have not been disciplined. I was let go of my position as a TA, and I’m grateful for it because it allowed me to join the student senate. Which is very comfortable territory. You may have seen on my bio that I’m a former student representative at University of Alaska Southeast as well as Mat-Su college campus. I’m quite accomplished in this. My natural leadership capability makes it so that some people do not understand my diligence and advocacy for what I believe is right, and I would say that… yeah, some people find me, my personality a bit strong. But the deal with that is I’m so grateful that I have such a strong personality and that I know myself so well, and that I know my purpose to serve my people and my state, and I make no apologies for that. I absolutely know who I am and what I am here to do. When you’re in leadership not everyone is going to like you, and that’s just how it is.
Wielechowski follows up and asks if she was asked to leave her position. She said the was enrolled in the communications program but added:
My preliminary reason for attending UAF was to be a TA. That didn’t work. I could go into it more with you but I’d prefer to have that conversation off record due to the sensitivity. I don’t want to cause offense to any of the players involved. But I will say that I was the best TA that ever walked in that communication department, and it’s a disservice to the students that could have studied with me, to be perfectly honest. But it’s ok. I positively impacted the lives of the nineteen students that I taught that first semester. And they sing my praises. And they loved that I taught them. I taught them way more public speaking. I taught them improvisation to warm them up and get them out of their way. I taught them advocacy and empowerment. And I taught them to be prepared, you know, in the state of crisis. It’s apropos that I was asked to not return as a TA, but to indeed continue studying in the program because it’s opened the door for what I’m really meant to be doing. So, there’s no negative here. I just really want to convey that to you, Senator Wielechowski. There’s all positives here, all forward movement.
Wielechowski then asked her who asked her to leave as a TA. She said, “The chair of the department.” She went on to say how awesome he is and that the whole thing was due, ironically, to communication problems.
You can watch the entire thing here.